Opposition MPs on Tuesday piled on Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou for the government’s refusal to compensate farmers who had used waste material other than compost as fertiliser.

Legislators said a way should be found to compensate the farmers in question – about 15 of them – but the minister insisted she would not break the law, citing a legal opinion furnished by the attorney-general.

Under that legal opinion, compensation is awarded only to farmers who used compost with certain specifications. To receive compensation or a subsidy from the EU, farmers must use organic matter. And, the attorney-general said, it does not matter whether the seller of the compost was licensed or not.

But MPs, especially from the Akel party, complained that the 15 farmers were being “victimised” for having purchased off-specification compost from a certain company. They also pointed out that though the company did not have a permit, it was nevertheless listed as an approved seller on the website of the agricultural ministry – meaning the farmers should not be blamed.

Given the minister’s steadfast refusal to green-light compensation, Akel’s Yiannakis Gavriel called for a “political decision” to resolve the matter.

Disy MP Charalambos Pazaros likewise urged the minister to find another way to secure the €250,000 in compensation for the 15 farmers.

The Greens’ Charalambos Theopemptou remarked that “we got here because permits are granted to companies to manufacture compost, without there being a set framework defining what compost is.”

Taking flak, the minister dismissed the notion that the state does not care about the primary sector. But she did acknowledge the error in listing those companies on the ministry website.

“If you ask me to break the law, the answer is no,” Panayiotou snapped back at MPs. “If someone asks me to act above the law, the answer is still no.”