Tasos Giapanis: "We are concerned about the survival of our farmers - Measures must be instituted"

In an interview with "Simerini tis Kyriakis" ("S"), Mr. Giapanis talks about the problems of the rural world, about the weather phenomena, about the influence of tourism in the agricultural sector, about prices and much more. - Watch the interview

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The General Secretary of the largest farmers' organization, "Panagrotikou", Tasos Giapanis, highlights the new threats that the rural world of Cyprus is called to overcome, as well as the problems of the pandemic and extreme weather phenomena.

Speaking to "Simerini tis Kyriakis" ("S"), Mr. Giapanis expresses the appreciation that the regular meetings and consultations with the competent Ministry of Agriculture will lead to a better tomorrow in the agricultural world and will solve the current problems. He even added that he will always be by the side of the agricultural movement, "united and strong, to defend his rights and consolidate his conquests, in order to further progress and develop the agricultural sector," he said.

Referring to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), he stressed that its main objectives are "improving agricultural productivity and supporting farmers." At the same time, it aims to ensure a stable supply of food at affordable prices but at the same time to ensure a decent living for all farmers in the European Union. "

What are the major problems facing the rural world?

By talking about problems or rather about challenges facing the rural world, we mean the horizontal issues that all sectors of the primary sector are called upon to manage. Such as the high cost of production (fertilizers, pesticides, electricity, oil, etc.), and exports, unfair competition, the "baptism" of imported products as Cypriot, foreign labor in agriculture, the problems presented to the Department of Water Development (WDD) and concern the continuous and inaccessible supply of irrigation water to all our farmers, the amendment of the framework law on agricultural risks, the opening of prices and the creation of a price auction.

In addition, I would also pose as a challenge the consultation on the new Rural Development Program (RDP), which is based on the EU guidelines for the new CAP and the new environmental policy to reduce pollution. of carbon. The coronavirus pandemic brought additional problems, such as the marketing of agricultural products (inside and outside Cyprus), as catering and tourism are partially operational.

Drought and extreme weather events

Prolonged drought and sudden frightening weather. What problems were caused and how will the situation be addressed?

It is a fact that Cyprus is in the sphere of desertification, climate change has not affected us the most, since the regions of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East are considered as "hotspots" of climate change. The farmer is called to produce his products without a stable environment, since droughts and extreme weather events are the most common problems he faces. As a result, it needs to irrigate more water and use more agricultural supplies, thus increasing production costs. The competent Ministry, in collaboration with the Agricultural Organizations, had joined the PAA. measures / plans that help our farmers, such as e.g. is hail protection, but also the modernization and establishment of the new framework for agricultural risks, for which we are in constant consultation for further improvement and modifications.

Non-operation of hotels, restaurants and the tourism sector in general or partial operation at best, due to coronavirus. Did it greatly affect the availability of agricultural products, since they went mainly to the local market? How will you proceed?

The coronavirus pandemic is an exogenous factor that has had a profound effect on the sales and distribution of agricultural products, having started at a pivotal point, when our farmers had already planned and planted all the products, leaving the cost of production the same, but sales to fall by up to 80%. I remind you that our population in Cyprus is close to 1 million and we have more than 3 million tourists every year, with the result that the primary sector plans and produces for almost 4 million population. So you realize, with restaurants or hotels closed or partially open, how much agricultural products have been affected. The biggest damage was done to the cooperatives / SEDIGEP that had to do with perishable and seasonal products.

We must say that the state has supported more than 30 million the various sectors of the primary sector with specific projects that gave their weight to professional farmers.

We are concerned about the survival of our farmers, in our view such measures must be instituted to ensure the efforts of farmers. An important step in this direction is the bill proposed by the Agricultural Organizations together with the Ministry of Agriculture and passed by the Parliament, and concerns the Unfair Commercial Practices in the supply chain of agricultural products and food.

We also hope that the bill proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture for the Cyprus Trademark will be passed by the legislature, in order to give another important tool to our farmers, but also additional value to our products. Another bill that moves in the direction of consolidating the position of the farmer / producer in the agri-food chain, is the one that amends the Law on the public markets, so that in these the first word has the producer and not the intermediaries and / or the merchants.

This is a package of three very important pieces of legislation, with which the Government, with the significant contribution of the Agricultural Organizations, gives impetus to the agricultural sector, not only to survive, but also to grow and progress. Of course, more needs to be done in this direction, and as an agricultural movement we are always at the disposal of the State for further upgrading of the sector.

Rise in grain prices and effects

Give us a comment on the increase in grain prices…

The increase in grain prices and not only, but also in raw materials, is a global phenomenon as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, small Cyprus had an additional burden due to the remote and isolated point we are on the European map, as we lag behind in transport with the rest of the European Union and the rest of the world in general, we do not have land borders, so we do not have trains or transport by road our products, at the same time in shipping we have few interfaces. As a result, the increase exceeds 40% and our livestock is burdened with additional costs.

Here we would like to thank the Minister of Agriculture and the Government of Nikos Anastasiadis who accepted the suggestions of the Agricultural Organizations and put their hand deep in their pocket, strengthening with additional funds worth 8 million euros the Livestock sector.

Common Agricultural Policy - what are the benefits and how are they used?

To understand the benefits of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), we need to look at its objectives. First and foremost, it is based on the partnership of farmers with society, that is, Europe's relationship with its farmers. That is why its main goals are to improve agricultural productivity and support farmers. At the same time, it aims to ensure a stable supply of food at affordable prices but at the same time to ensure a decent living for all farmers in the European Union.

In addition, it contributes to tackling climate change and the sustainable management of natural resources. After all, environmental protection and sustainable development are at the heart of European policies and are implemented through the now well-known Green Agreement, the European Union's central strategy.

Through the various measures and plans of the Rural Development Program (RDP), fully harmonized with the provisions of the Green Agreement, the State and the agricultural sector utilize these benefits in order to keep the rural economy alive, to there is life in rural areas and in the region and at the same time to promote employment in the primary sector, the supply of agri-food products but also related sectors, such as the processing of agricultural products e.g. halloumi, olive oil, juices etc.

There are facilities for farmers to fully absorb all European Union funds concerning agriculture?

When we say facilities we clearly mean the presentation to our farmers and the better understanding of the programs that concern European funds. Through regional gatherings both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Organizations present these measures / plans and urge our eligible farmers to apply either for more modernization or for training.

Our primary concern is to serve professional farmers, especially those who are registered in the farmers register. I would like to remind you that Cyprus absorbs almost all of these funds related to the agricultural sector.

Halloumi in PDO products

With the inclusion of halloumi in PDO products, how do you see the perspective and what problems are there?

The recognition of the halloumi as a PDO was the result of a methodical work of several years by both the Minister of Agriculture Mr. Costas Kadis and the officials of the Ministry, as well as the Agricultural Organizations, inside and outside Cyprus. This is a great achievement, especially considering the difficult and complex conditions in which it was achieved, the distortions that arose due to the long wait, but also the political dimensions of the issue, with the constant objections and interventions of Turkey.

It is a fact that the dossier submitted for approval 8 years ago needs some improvements, precisely because of the distortions I mentioned above. There are concerns and questions from various stakeholders, based on their own interests. The Agricultural Organizations have direct contact and representation in the consultations that took place but also for the modernization of the file. We, as Panagrotikos, believe that halloumi is not only a traditional product of centuries but is our own tradition and history. We believe that everyone should be a winner (Win-Win), so we welcome the first positive results of the informal committee operating under the coordination of the Ministry of Agriculture with all involved (Sheep and Goat Breeders, Cheese Breeders, Farmers' Organizations and technocrats from Ministry of Agriculture).

How are the objectives set by the European Union with regard to environmental issues, ie Green Development, being addressed and how will you implement them?

We must recognize that our farmers must produce food and at the same time protect nature and preserve biodiversity. The European Union believes that the prudent use of natural resources is fundamental to our food production and quality of life. He believes that climate change and environmental degradation threaten the very existence of mankind and life on planet Earth.

That is why, as I mentioned in your previous question, the Union has entered into the Europe Green Agreement, which seeks to transform Europe into a modern, resource-efficient entity with a competitive economy.

The Green Agreement calls for zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and economic growth that is decoupled from resource use, thus shifting the burden to the circular economy and to reusing and managing waste.

At the same time, it aims to have clean air, clean water, healthy soil and biodiversity, as well as healthy and affordable food. In addition, the Agreement requires the use of longer-life materials that can be repaired, recycled and reused.

As a result of the above objectives of the EU came the "From farm to fork" strategy, which is at the heart of the European Green Agreement, which aims to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally friendly. At this point, I would like to point out the decisive contribution of the Cypriot Health and Food Commissioner Stella Kyriakidou in the elaboration of this strategy.

All these are part of the medium-term plans of the Ministry of Agriculture, with the main implementation and execution body the new P.A.A.

One last message with a final comment?

Thank you. I would like to assure the rural world that the rural movement will always be by its side, united and strong, to defend its rights and consolidate its conquests, with the aim of further progress and development of the agricultural sector. I consider the good cooperation and coexistence of the Agricultural Organizations with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Minister himself, but also the Government and the State in general, which has been achieved during the current government, as a "happy circumstance", from which the rural world will reap the maximum possible benefits.

Source: TODAY