"Monkey" potatoes: They dye potatoes with red soil and sell them as Cypriot

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From the newspaper "Simerini" on Sunday

The by-trade with the "baptism" of potatoes as Cypriot in Greece and Cyprus seems to be gaining momentum. The phenomenon has been confirmed since last October by the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Costas Kadis, in a private meeting he had with his Greek counterpart Stavros Arachovitis.

During the meeting, the Cypriot Minister confirmed the existence of a by-trade, in which potatoes of unknown origin are "baptized" in mud, which includes red soil, and then sold as Cypriot. In fact, there is cooperation between the two countries on this issue, with the aim of combating the phenomenon.

The illegal traders take advantage of the high price of the Cypriot potato and especially the reddish due to its quality and mix it with cheaper potatoes of unknown origin, which most of the time can come from Egypt or Greece. They are then transported to open-air markets or supermarkets, where they are sold under the mark and at the price of the Cypriot potato, which is much higher than the price of potatoes of unknown origin.

According to the President of the Cyprus Potato Trade Council, George Tasos, the percentage of notoriety is high, as the price of Cypriot potatoes is four times higher than that of potatoes of unknown origin. Mr. Tassos also pointed out the difficulty not only of locating the perpetrators but also of combating the phenomenon.

Last March, in his complaints, the President of the Merchants Association of the Central Vegetable Market of Athens, Stefanos Kyrlis, warned that every year millions of euros are lost from trafficking, while similar complaints exist regarding the Greekization of cheap potatoes from France or other Countries.

Complaints from farmers

An official source of the Ministry of Agriculture informed "S" that anonymous complaints have been made about the issue by Cypriot farmers who went to Greece to find out for themselves the magnitude of the problem. According to the same source, a specific farmer went to a well-known supermarket in Greece, where he bought potatoes with Cypriot markings and handed them over to Ministry officials. Despite the fact that for the specific potatoes one could easily see visually that they were not of Cypriot origin since the specific variety is not cultivated in our country, the officials of the Ministry sent the sample for examinations abroad where it was proved that it was a non-Cypriot product.

In fact, according to the complaints, there were traders who placed the potatoes of unknown origin in red soil mud, so that it would be presented during its sale as a Cypriot red potato.

Despite the identification of the problem, and despite the ongoing efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, there is great difficulty in combating the phenomenon, as in addition to the cooperation that already exists between the competent Ministries of the two countries, combating trafficking in Greece requires specific procedures. such as, among other things, the detection of illegality, the on-site inspection by a ladder of the Greek Ministry of Economy, and the taking of a sample and then its identification.

Side trade from the occupied territories

The trade seems to be not limited only within Greek borders to flourish in our country as well. Complaints from farmers indicate that there is information about traders who allegedly illegally import potatoes from uncontrolled points from Turkey and then "baptized" Cypriots. Nevertheless, according to the Green Line regulation, the import of potatoes from the occupied areas through controlled points and their sale as Cypriot are considered legal. According to estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture, the quantity of potatoes imported from the occupied areas amounts to only about 2% of the annual production of Cyprus.

Potato certification

At the same time, the efforts of potato growers to certify the Cypriot potato are at an advanced stage. From June 2017, an application was submitted for the certification of the "Kokkinogi Kokkinochorion Potato" as a Product with Geographical Indication. The application is being examined at the national level, and was submitted by the Pancyprian Coordinating Organization of Potato Producers (PA.SY.OPA).

The certification of the "Kokkinogi Kokkinohorion Potato" with Protected Geographical Indication will substantially contribute to the further recognition of the product at the international level and will highlight its quality which is already known to the consumers of Europe. At the same time, it can prevent trafficking, which will now violate Community and not just national law with the heaviest penalties acting as a deterrent. At the same time, possible certification of the product will offer the possibility for the potato to enjoy higher prices.

Source: "Simerini" newspaper of Sunday / Marinos Pavlikkas