The organic food market in Cyprus is not expected to mature shortly. However, according to the Department of Agriculture and other stakeholders, organic farming has been growing over the last few years. Supply remains at low levels, and as a result, the price gap between organic and conventional food is much higher in Cyprus than in the rest of Europe, they said.
George Kyrris from the Department of Agriculture told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that the number of organic farmers rose to 1,282 in 2018 from 45 in 2002 when the relevant legislation came into force.
The total area under organic farming increased to 56,082 decares (5,608 hectares), representing 4.5% of the total agricultural area, which is high enough compared with the EU’s corresponding rate of 7.3% that includes large areas of pastures, whose management is not governed by the rules of organic farming, said Kyrris.
The main organic foods produced in Cyprus are grains, olives, grapes, fruits, and vegetables.
According to Kris, “organic produce in Cyprus has experienced an upturn over the last years. Farmers do have a financial benefit through the Rural Development Programme and their subsidies, but this is not their only incentive. They believe in what they do, and that is evident from the results of our tests and the chemical analyses conducted”.
He also noted that the number of organic shops is increasing as well. Kyrris said that organic food prices in Cyprus are still higher than the prices in Europe. Organics in Europe are approximately 20-25% more expensive than conventional foods. Still, in Cyprus, their prices could be 100% higher, and “the reason is low supply. There are imported products, but they have not brought down prices. Our market is not mature yet,” he noted.
He said that the market would mature at some point; however, that was not expected to happen soon but in the long term.
According to the Association of Organic Farmers, organic products’ prices fluctuate depending on the season and the production. Shortcomings are commonly observed in the local production of fresh vegetables.
“Due to the size of the parcels, which are too small compared with other countries, there can be no economies of scale and in combination with low demand for organic products the producer cannot focus on cultivating few varieties in large quantities,” Charis Christoforou from the Association told the CNA.
Imported organic products in Cyprus represent 90% of the total supply, according to Stavri Spyridakes from Sana Investments, one of the largest organic wholesale and retail companies in Cyprus.
Products are mainly imported from Greece, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
The company estimates that it will take another decade for the organic food market in Cyprus to mature.
Spyridakes said that the rate of consumers buying organic food is between two and five percent.