Organic Farming in Cyprus

20 years on, Cyprus is still struggling to embrace organic agriculture.

Firstly, Here’s some info on organic food to get us started.

For centuries, organic agriculture had been the only available practice, but that started to change since the Industrial Revolution, seeing a steady rise in production due to the use of synthetic fertilisers and experiencing a second boom during the 50s, where the chemical companies focused away from World War II weapons and shifted towards creating synthetic pesticides, resulting in a subsequent rise in agricultural production and population rates, the so called ‘Baby Boom’ generation. Unfortunately the method is proving to be unsustainable, draining resources and producing undesirable side effects in the environment and our health.

There are many alternatives to the ‘traditional’ intensive crop farming we grew up with and we will be exploring many of them in this blog. One of such practices is the conscientious return to older, more sustainable ways of farming, such as organic. Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and biological pest control, which while making it harder to compete in production with intensive farming, produces healthier, more resilient food.

Satellite image of high intensity farming circular crop fields in Haskell County, Kansas in late June 2001, where farmers have applied color halftone effect to the Earth’s surface.

Organic agriculture was re-introduced to Cyprus in 1988 by two farmers producing several kinds of vegetables, including potatoes, cereals and livestock products, such as dairy products and meat. Their original farm size was approximately 3 hectares, and only a small part of their land was irrigated efficiently. Their whole production, processing, packaging and labelling systems used were in line with IFOAM’s basic standards and was sold locally.

During the 1990s the number of farmers increased at a slow pace. New additions were made to the list of organic products, such as dessert grapes, carob, wine, herbs, pulses and others. In 1993 the production, processing, inspection and certification systems used came to be in accordance with Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91. By the end of the decade, there were 13 hectares and 15 farms under organic management. With the exception of one dessert grape farm and one vineyard, all the other farms were less than 0.5 hectare in size. (source: George Theofanous, http://www.organic-europe.net, 23.6.2000)

One of the more successful organic farms in Cyprus, Riverland, opened up in 2004. Find more about it at http://www.riverland.com

As demand for organic products kept rising all over Europe and consumers started becoming increasingly conscientious about the origins of their food, the northern part of Cyprus slowly embarked on its own organic revolution in 2004, with the help of the European Union and UNDP, amassing 400 hectares of organically certified land by 2010. A small documentary was created to promote this initiative to the general public on the island. There’s two more parts on Youtube if you are interested.

In the southern part, the consumer market demand seemed to be turning towards organic. Nowadays there’s a numbers of shops and supermarkets distributing local and imported organic goods, even online.

Is it a fad? Or is it a luxury? We don’t know for sure, but we sure do hope this trend picks up and healthy, organic food and other products become massively available commodities. We will be gathering more data on the subject soon, as we engage key stakeholders of the agricultural sector in Cyprus for our research and we’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading, don’t be a stranger!

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