Family Farming Knowledge Platform


Cyprus boasts high-quality agricultural produce – the foundations of the life-enhancing Mediterranean diet. As visitors from abroad will testify, when presented with mouth- watering dishes made from fresh local produce, its reputation as the ‘Food Island’ of the Eastern Mediterranean, is a well-founded one. But the farmers of Cyprus certainly don’t have it easy: they face an ongoing struggle for economic relevance, one that has been compounded over the past year by both environmental and political challenges. The sector has responded by moving fast, simultaneously adopting new technologies, bringing new products to the market, and seeking out new customer bases.


Cyprus’ main agricultural exports are quintessentially Mediterranean: health-promoting foods such as olives, citrus fruit and grapes, along with potatoes, all of which thrive in a mild, sunny climate. There may be no shortage of sunshine, but farming in Cyprus is vulnerable to drought. It relies heavily on irrigation and consumes 70% of the island’s valuable water resources. The 2013-14 growing season was particularly harsh seeing only 47%of expected rainfall, damaging crops and compelling the agriculture minister to seek compensation from the EU solidarity fund for disaster relief.

But thanks to the latest desalination technology agricultural drought is set to be a thing of the past. Last year saw the opening of a new state-of-the-art desalination plant on the coast near Limassol, bringing the total number of water treatment plants on the island to six. The new facility is capable of producing 60,000 cubic meters of water a day. Its output, together with that of the other five, means that for the first time in its history Cyprus is now self-sufficient in its water needs.  As part of its commitment to reforming the rural economy, the government is also promoting the treatment of waste water for use in agricultural irrigation, together with a reduction in the quantities of water- hungry citrus fruit and the cultivation of more drought-tolerant crops. The traditional markets for Cypriot citrus products have been Russia and the United Kingdom, both enthusiastic consumers of oranges, tangerines and mandora, a cross between a mandarin and an orange, used by Russian manufacturers in the production of fruit juice. Citrus exports to Russia reached €10.7 million in 2013, while total food exports amounted to around €13.5 million.

The Russian ban on importing EU food products – in response to EU-imposed sanctions against its actions in Ukraine – has forced citrus farmers to seek EU aid to compensate them for the losses they have incurred. But it has also seen the sector responding quickly in seeking out new markets. Preliminary talks with importers from the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries have been productive and it is hoped that they may lead to the establishment of a long-term consumer base not just for citrus fruits but also for potatoes, vegetables and dairy products.

Cypriot farmers are clearly used to adapting quickly in response to changing market conditions. One interesting new niche area of cultivation is the growth of the sweet South American herb, stevia, used in the production of artificial sweeteners. Around 600,000 stevia plants are to be sown in Cyprus over an area of 70-90 hectares over the coming year. The attempt to diversify into stevia production was prompted by recent success in marketing halloumi cheese as an international brand – an achievement which demonstrated how the island can establish a unique identity for its products. The authorities are now seeking to repeat this success with other agricultural products like olive oil, fruits, vegetables and potatoes, thus strengthening Cyprus’ reputation as the source of high quality produce for which the consumer will pay mor

The Wine Products Council (WPC) has already had considerable success in transforming the Cypriot wine industry, which until recently had an indifferent reputation overseas. Adopting the maxim ‘quality not quantity’, the WPC introduced financial incentives for the cultivation of grape strains more suitable for the export market and actively sought experienced international wine makers to invest in high quality wineries. There are now over 40 small, local wineries producing high quality wines. To showcase the rich viticulture of the island, the Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) has created a wine trail project, offering six different organised routes for wine-lovers to tour the island and visit the many wine producing regions and local wineries. The reputation of the annual Limassol Wine Festival, started in 1961, has also spread beyond the country’s borders and attracts over 100,000 visitors every year to the city’s municipal gardens to discover the wine portfolios of both the smaller independent producers and the four big wine cooperatives – KEO, SODAP, ETKO and LOEL.

While challenges remain for Cypriot agriculture the ‘Food Island’ of the Eastern Mediterranean has demonstrated that it is adaptable, resilient and capable of responding to adversity with creativity and vision.


This text is kindly provided by the authorities of this country

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