Farmers’ concerns need to be addressed with a specific set of organised actions, the Green party said on Tuesday.

In a letter addressed to Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou, MP Charalambos Theopemptou highlighted the policies that should be undertaken by the state to ensure income security for food producers without the need to resort to increased subsidies or compromises to the environment and sustainability.

Noting discontent expressed through massive uprisings by farmers across the EU and also in Cyprus against what are viewed as stifling directives under the common agricultural policy (CAP), Theopemptou pointed out that a key proclaimed goal of the EU’s green deal seems to have been forgotten – that is, the equitable distribution of income from farming.

While environmental pundits vilify farmers for resisting proposed reductions in use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers, and antibiotics, farmers voice legitimate concerns that these policies, if enacted in one fell swoop, will dramatically decrease yields to the point where their profession would itself become obsolete.

Farm to Fork policies, widely discussed at the EU level, need to be implemented in Cyprus as the means to compensate farmers for yield losses, Theopemptou said.

These policies, moreover, would indirectly provide the impetus for production and sale of organic foods, improved living conditions for livestock, and reduction of greenhouse gasses produced from conventional agricultural practices, he argued.

To this end, farmers’ livelihoods can be boosted and secured through strategic encouragement and proliferation of readily accessible and highly visible local farmers’ markets, including for specialised crafts and artisanal products, Theopemptou added.

The MP also noted that while legislation for unfair trade competition from middlemen or wholesalers has been passed, it is not implemented, and there has been no effort on the part of the state to promote a ‘buy local’ ethos.

The island’s organic farmers also face competition from abroad and domestically, being unable to provide as individuals, the quantities sought by state-run sectors such as hospitals, the national guard or prisons, while there has been no effort made to structure cooperatives, despite legislation allowing for this.

Other ways farmers could be supported include investing in a system of water provision from sewerage and rainwater run off rather than dumping this in the sea, Theopemptou pointed out.

Opening up pasturelands for the grazing of animals near forests could allow for creation of fire breaks and improved fire safety, as well as benefitting herders, the MP suggested.

Finally, lifelong learning programmes on sustainable agriculture ought to be improved. Facilitation of cottage industries must be sought, as current food safety rules are prohibitive, the MP said.

On the financial side, incentives must be provided if farmers are to be expected to take on the risk of innovative practices. These include access to low-interest loans and micro-loans, inexpensive photovoltaic installation, establishment of energy communities, and free composting.