Agriculture Minister, Costas Kadis has had a busy week; on 6 November he announced a package of assistance measures for farmers impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic, he then followed this on 10 November by revealing a new plan for attracting younger people to and retaining them in the farming profession.
Whilst in normal times Cyprus agriculture accounts for just 2.1% of GDP it has, nonetheless been badly impacted by the pandemic. Reductions in tourism and restrictions placed on catering establishments across the island have had a dramatic knock on effect for farm revenues. Alongside this however, the various Covid related restrictions relating to the international movement of products clearly highlight that it is the best interests of Cyprus to maintain a viable agricultural sector. A lack of food tends to have a more debilitating effect than the lack of the latest smartphone.
With this in mind, the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (the “Ministry”) has chosen to invoke measure 21 of the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan (the “RDP”). Measure 21 was approved earlier in 2020 by the Council of Ministers and the EU Commission, it allows for the provision of extraordinary assistance for farmers suffering hardship because of the pandemic. The measure 21 actions should result in the distribution of approximately 3.65 million euro of aid to be allocated across agricultural sectors as follows:
- Permanent agricultural crops at altitude above 400m – 2.2m euro
- Vegetables, herbs and strawberries – 0.65m euro
- Viticulture – 0.5m euro
- Watermelons – 0.25 euro
- Olive plantations below 400m altitude – 0.05m euro
The measures will be partly state funded and partly funded through the RDP. A further two schemes to benefit pig breeders (0.75m euro) and wine producers (0.166m euro) are also imminent. Applications for the measure 21 assistance must be submitted by 17 November 2020. Only professional farmers who have applied to the Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation for assistance in 2020 are eligible to apply for these new funds. The level of aid awarded is linked to the area of land under cultivation with a maximum of 7,000 euro per applicant.
Emphasizing the desire to ensure the long-term sustainability of the agricultural sector the Minister’s 10 November statement revealed a new plan for the sector which has been developed in line with the new European Common Agricultural Policy. Called “CAPture the Future Generation” the one-year plan is focused on regenerating the aging farming population and will be 60% funded by the EU. The aim is to spread awareness of the benefits of the CAP among younger people and to both motivate and actively assist them in starting a career in the agricultural sector. Within the main plan there are four smaller specific projects that will be promoted including and online educational platform to be used by school teachers.
Farming in Cyprus has undergone a quiet revolution since entry into the EU. Funding received has been strategically used to transform Cyprus agriculture into a more modern, efficient sector which is focused on production quality rather than simply on quantity. The result of this, prior to the pandemic, has been a steady growth in the value of the sector since 2014. Minister Kadis is optimistic that the new measures he has announced can help to consolidate the gains made to date and ensure a solid, sustainable future for the sector.