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We aim to increase primary sector GDP share and sustainability, Agriculture Minister says

The goal of the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment is to increase the share of the primary sector in the country's GDP, expand and upgrade the sector in terms of sustainability to meet domestic needs and promote local Cypriot products to new markets.

Minister Maria Panayiotou noted the above at a 2 April press conference held to present the work of the Ministry of Agriculture during the first year of President Christodoulides's administration.

The Minister said that the national investment plan for water projects includes 33 water infrastructure projects for water supply, wastewater, reclaimed water and irrigation, whose worth is estimated at €722 million, and are under construction with a completion horizon of 2024-2029, while another 60 projects whose worth is estimated at €445 million are under evaluation with a start and completion horizon of 2025 and 2030, respectively.

At the same time, Panayiotou said that the Ministry is looking at how to improve the conditions under which farmers place their products on the market and added that the Ministry has started working on a digital tool that will provide up-to-date information on the average selling prices of basic agricultural products, as determined by producer groups and organisations, as well as retail prices from various outlets.

She also said that in 2023 the Ministry's actual expenditure amounted to about €435 million and added that the Ministry is moving to the next phase of efforts in 2024 with a budget of €440 million.

Panayiotou also said that one of the biggest problems faced by Cypriot producers is the increased cost of production and added that as a consequence, about €10 million were given exclusively for effective support of agricultural income. In particular, she noted that in 2023 the Council of Ministers supported the wheat and forage production with €2,075,642, as well as the potato sector with €1,654,000, while it was also decided to support farmers in Western Nicosia with €1 million.

At the same time, she said that investments of €1.1 million have been approved for the utilisation of renewable energy sources in the primary sector, with a capacity of about 10MW.

Referring to halloumi, Panayiotou said that to date, more than 60 cheese dairies have received certification for PDO halloumi production through the programmes provided by the Ministry, while more than 1,600 goat, sheep and cattle farms have been certified for the production of milk, which is intended for the production of halloumi.

Regarding prevention as the first and key step for the effective response to fires, Panayiotou said that the first phase of the establishment of the holistic fire surveillance system was completed in June 2023 with the installation of four automatic fire detection systems worth €420,000, while in early March 2024 the Department of Forests received equipment worth €5,256,568 and contracts worth €2,562,508 have been signed for the supply of tankers and platform vehicles.

In relation to environmental protection, the Minister of Agriculture said that the amendment of legislation on the environmental assessment of projects, including projects in or near Natura 2000 sites, is underway, to make monitoring of environmental conditions mandatory and to introduce provisions to regulate breaches of environmental conditions.

The Minister also said that €4.4 million had been given to 12,400 farmers, livestock farmers and beekeepers practicing organic farming, adding that "our aim is to further strengthen and promote organic farming".

Asked about the number of new farmers and whether the share of the primary sector in GDP will increase, Panayiotou said that 270 new farmers have applied and been approved, adding that "there are strong incentives for a young person to enter the profession."

(Source: CNA)

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