articles | 03 April 2024

Minister sets sights on boosting agriculture’s share in Cypriot GDP

Agriculture Minister Maria Panayiotou has said that the ministry’s goal is to increase the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP, combined with enhancing its sustainability to meet domestic demands, and promoting Cypriot products in new markets.

She said, “At the centre of the Ministry are people and the environment, with the main axes being the transition to a sustainable, innovative and green economy, the revitalisation of the countryside and the implementation of a comprehensive and horizontal strategy for the protection of the environment.” Furthermore, she expressed the aspiration for achieving a zero-carbon footprint in primary sector production, saying that “the ultimate goal is the production of products of the primary sector with a zero-carbon footprint.” To address the challenges identified in a study by the Department of Agriculture, she highlighted ongoing efforts to process the collected data, incorporating inputs from agricultural organisations, the academic community, and experts in new technologies.

Looking ahead, the minister announced forthcoming initiatives aimed at enhancing water management, acknowledging water’s vital role in agriculture. She stated, “At the centre of the ministry’s policy must be the implementation of an integrated water policy, which will respond to the new data and at the same time serve the needs of both water supply as well as irrigation on a pan-Cypriot scale.” These initiatives align with the national investment plan for water projects, which encompasses various infrastructure endeavours crucial for sustainable water management.

Concurrently with water management strategies, Panayiotou outlined plans to bolster financial support for farmers and facilitate access to innovative technologies. She emphasised that “we need to give increased support to new technologies, such as innovative irrigation systems.” Additionally, efforts are underway to collaborate with financial institutions to provide farmers with the necessary financial tools for infrastructure development, ultimately aiming to enhance production efficiency and reduce costs. Furthermore, she highlighted the significance of transparency in agricultural markets, introducing “e-kofini,” a digital platform designed to provide updated information on agricultural product prices. This initiative aims to foster transparency and empower consumers by facilitating access to crucial market data.

In addition to these measures, the minister emphasised the importance of targeted actions to support the primary sector, steering away from reliance on ad hoc solutions or subsidy policies. She stressed, “The primary sector does not live on first aid solutions or subsidy policy and needs to be supported with targeted actions.” These actions encompass a spectrum of endeavours, from improving risk management mechanisms to promoting investments in renewable energy sources and genetic improvement programs for livestock.

In her overview of strategic initiatives, Panayiotou highlighted the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plan 2023-2027, emphasising its focus on enhancing the competitiveness of the primary sector, improving rural livelihoods, and ensuring environmental sustainability. She noted, “The current Strategic Plan differs significantly from that of the previous programming period as it is people-centred.” Moreover, the minister underscored the government’s commitment to supporting young farmers and enhancing rural development programmes, citing notable increases in budget allocations to these initiatives. She remarked that “one of the biggest problems faced by Cypriot producers is the increased cost of production,” emphasising the government’s efforts to alleviate financial burdens and enhance agricultural income.

Concerning the genetic improvement of animals, Panayiotou said that the “AGRICYGEN” project by the Agricultural Research Institute is underway. In the context of this project, the “Genetic improvement of the sheep and goat population in Cyprus” is being examined. Furthermore, within the framework of the Recovery Plan of Cyprus, a Grant Scheme for the Genetic Improvement of Sheep and Goats, amounting to five million euros, was included.

In addition, the minister referred to departments of the Ministry related to applied agricultural research. She mentioned that the “CARBONICA” project is financed through the Horizon Europe Programme with approximately five million euros. This project involves the participation of 14 partners, including the Agricultural Research Institute. It aims to establish the “CARBONICA Excellence Hub”, with deliverable applied practices to improve the rate of carbon dioxide (CO2) removal from the atmosphere and storage in plants or soil. “The ultimate goal is the production of products of the primary sector with a zero-carbon footprint,” she underlined.

She further said that the ‘NENUPHAR’ programme, launched in November 2023, provides solutions to nutrient pollution and increased fertiliser prices by recovering nitrogen and phosphorus from manure, sludge, and dairy waste streams that are widespread in the EU. Additionally, she stated that in the period 7/3/2023, when the Grant Scheme was announced (until 12/5/2023), 43 applications were submitted by goat and sheep farmers and 31 contracts were signed. Applicants received the amount of €1,484,760 until the end of 2023 for sponsorships and training in this direction. She added that to simultaneously increase productivity and reduce production costs, a series of additional actions are implemented within the framework of the CAP, costing approximately €4 million. These actions also include measures that contribute to the improvement of organic matter and the quality of the soil, in all the main crops of our country.

The minister also referred to actions to support beekeeping and the crop rotation measure that was announced with increased aid prices and new provisions. These measures contribute significantly, as she said, to reducing production costs, reducing the use of natural resources, especially water, as well as reducing the need to use chemical fertilisers. She also said that within the first year of governance, 7,000 visits were made throughout Cyprus to provide advisory services to agricultural holdings.

In addition, Panayiotou said that “one of the most important innovations of the government of Nikos Christodoulides, and which started to fill a very important gap that existed for decades, is the approval by the Council of Ministers, in November 2023, of a proposal for the establishment of an Environmental Controls Sector”. She added that this sector, which is included under the Department of Environment and will be staffed within 2024, will be responsible for controls and inspections in waste management units that operate in areas of competence of the Department of Environment.

Source: Cyprus Mail

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