The north is to begin importing meat from the Netherlands with the aim of reducing the cost for consumers, ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel announced on Friday.

He said offers to supply meat had been received from Spain, Romania and the Netherlands, and that they had chosen the Dutch bid.

Meat imported from the Netherlands will be sold at butchers’ shops across the north, with frozen boneless lamb set to cost 400TL (€11.42) per kilogram, and frozen packaged minced beef to be sold for 300TL (€8.56) per kilogram.

Possibly aware of coming backlash from butchers, Ustel said “there will be no stepping back” from the decision, and that the ‘government’ had also increased the subsidy for raising a lamb locally from 800TL (€22.84) to 1100TL (€31.40) per lamb.

In addition to the meat imports, he also announced that this year’s financial protocol deal to be signed with Turkey will be worth 14 billion TL (€399.6 million) to the north.

Costs to be covered by Turkey as part of the protocol will include the completion of the long-awaited new Morphou hospital and the beginning of the project to connect the north’s electricity grid to that of Turkey via a two-way cable.

The north’s ‘government’s’ decision to begin importing meat from the Netherlands comes after months of stories of Turkish Cypriots attempting to illegally smuggle meat to the north from the Republic, where it is drastically cheaper.

In March, Turkish Cypriot police found and seized almost two metric tonnes of beef from supermarkets in the Kyrenia district.

Two weeks prior, a man had received a fine for attempting to cross north at the Ayios Dhometios crossing point with 143kg of red meat, while a similar sting at the Pergamos crossing point and the nearby village of Lysi uncovered 140kg of beef smuggled from the Republic.

The north’s ‘government’s’ first attempt at action on the matter to reduce prices for consumers was the implementation of price controls for lamb meat in April.

They decreed that lamb be sold for no more than 550TL (€15.89 at the time) per kilogram, with butchers attempting to sell their meat for more than the stated price to be issued fines.

Butchers sidestepped the law, however, by introducing a “service fee” on top of the retail price of lamb. The fee typically ranged between 10 and 15 per cent of the retail price of the meat, thus effectively allowing butchers to charge more.

Butchers have been aware of the “southward shift” opposition party CTP leader Tufan Erhurman said and slaughtered two lambs in protest against their loss of custom in January.

They had demanded that the north’s ‘government’ “find a solution” to allow meat to be sold at a price range in line with prices in the Republic.