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Fresh Fruit and Vegetables



From Cyprus with Sun...

Despite its tiny small size, the island of Cyprus possesses a wide range of soils as well as a number of unique, Mediterranean type micro-climates which enable it to produce a broad range of fruit & vegetables. Crops include the full range of citrus fruit, melons and watermelons,  table and wine grapes and the famous red soil potatoes harvested during the winter and spring time. The long hours of sunshine also favor the production of seasonal salad and vegetable crops that provide the bulk of supplies for the local market. For the last tree decades the salads business has provided a major source of export income by supplying Europe with out-of-season vegetables during the months of November-May. Recent years have also seen the gradual expansion of the aromatic herbs business, grown predominantly for the fresh export markets.

 

Sea transport with reefer vessels is available from Larnaca and Limassol ports, both situated within easy reach of the major production centers. For highly perishable crops, air freight is available from Larnaca and Paphos airports on a number of direct and indirect (trans-shipment) flights to destination markets.

 

Cypriot growers are supported in their efforts by government bodies whict include the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Commerce and the Agricultural Research Institute. On the trade side, international market promotion and co-ordination is supported by a number of state operated commercial offices that operate in various countries as local Trade Centers.

 

Although the total land dedicated to fruit and vegetable crops accounts for around 15% of the total cultivated land, their value make up nearly 65% of the agricultural sector GDP. Furthermore, the sector is highly dependent on the export markets which take more than 50% of the total production. 

 

Production and export  of major fruit and vegetable crops for 2004 (tons)

Main Products

Production

Exports

% of exports

to production

Oranges

46,822

13,817

30%

Lemons

21,784

9,634

44%

Grapefruit

37,025

22,665

61%

Easy peeler citrus

41,261

28,407

69%

Potatoes

129,150

87,368

68%

Table Grapes

21,144

1,101

5%

Water melons

40,817

1,983

5%

Source: Agricultural Statistics 2004

 

 

CITRUS FRUIT

Brief history of production: The citron (in Greek ‘kitromilo’) must have been present in Cyprus much earlier than any other type of citrus fruit and evidence further suggests of its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean since the 4th century. Oranges and lemons entered Cyprus some time during the 13th or 14th century probably by Arabian traders who had earlier introduced them to Palestine from India, the motherland of the citrus fruit. Among the earliest historical references of citrus cultivation in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean are documents dating from the 15th century1. For decades the dominant production regions were found in the Morfou Bay, on the Lapithos slopes overlooking the Kyrenia Bay, near the town of Ammochostos and in smaller volumes at the Fasouri-Episkopi region. Following the Turkish invasion of 1974, production was forced to move southwards with around 65% of the citrus grove yards now concentrated on the southern coast between Limassol and Pafos and to a lesser extent in the central valley between the villages of Akaki and Astromeritis. A total of 5.500 hectares have been recorded (2004 Official Agricultural Statistics records) with citrus fruit comprising: 3.170ha of oranges, 900 ha easy peelers – mainly mandoras, 600ha grapefruit and 900ha lemons.

 

Lemons: The Cyprus climate is favourable for the production of a broad range of citrus fruit but historically lemons have led the way in terms of quality and return for the growers. Lemons have been cultivated in Cyprus since the 13th century brought to the island probably by the Arabs. For the people of Cyprus, the lemon fruit provides an important ingredient used extensively in the local cuisine on salads and prepared food. Consumption is substantially high but not statistically recorded as lemon trees are widely grown in home back yards or on street pavements as a household tree, satisfying the daily needs of the average Cypriot family. The Cyprus lemon variety is named ‘Lapithiotiki’ deriving its name from the occupied Lapithos village where since the early 18th century the tree was extensively cultivated.

 

Despite setbacks in production and export volumes, Cyprus remains internationally renowned for its top quality lemon fruit described as thin skinned and characterised by rich flesh and strong aroma. The fruit is normally harvested and exported from mid-September with a typical annual export crop size of 10,000tons, although this figure was substantially reduced during the 2005/06 period by more than 30%.

 

 

Grapefruit: Cyprus has for long been regarded as a major international player in the grapefruit world trade business. The Cypriot fruit scores high on quality due to its aromatic juice and balanced sugar-acidity content, characteristics that result from the perfect regional microclimate and the fertile land. The long sunshine of the island helps the fruit to obtain a uniform pigmentation and a unique taste. Cyprus primarily produces the white marsh seedless variety with its pale, light yellow skin and bitter-sweet taste with groves concentrated mainly in the Limassol area. New plantations in Limassol and increasingly in the Paphos area have concentrated in the production of pigmented grapefruit varieties such as Ruby Red and Star Ruby in order to meet changing market preferences. Grapefruit exports fluctuate annually around 19-20 thousand tons, a fairly stable figure in recent years although it must be stressed that export volumes and returns are greatly influenced by the production volumes and quality of the Florida crop.

 

 

Oranges: The orange fruit was definitely present in the Cypriot commercial gardens since the 15th century. Two of the earliest references on the orange fruit presence in the Eastern Mediterranean region are reported by Prof. W.W. Weiver in his book ‘The Royal Garden of Pefkou’1. The first one relates to a 1433 document where a monk noted that his orange trees were damaged by a wind-storm. The second relates to the subject matter of the book itself which focuses on a 1468 agreement of transfer that involved the Royal Garden of Pefkou (near Nicosia) where the cultivation of orange trees is explicitly commented on the agreement document.

 

The long history of commercial orange cultivation has given Cyprus oranges a reputation for quality and professional husbandry practises. Navels, Ovals and Valencia late are the main varieties grown for export purposes. Oranges account for around 13-15% of the total citrus exports with the main variety being the Valencia Late.

 

 

Easy peelers: Among the easy peeler varieties, Mandora ranks as the largest single citrus production and export crop accounting for nearly 45% of the total citrus export volume. It comes on stream in January destined almost explicitly for the export markets. Mandora’s name is derived from mandarin and orange and it is a juicy, sweet flavoured fruit. The balanced taste, the attractive peel texture and colour are all affected by the local climate which seems ideal for growing Mandoras. Other easy peeler varieties such as clementines, mineollas and novas are grown at much smaller volumes and account for a very small proportion of the easy peeler export trade.

 

Information about the sector

Following accession in the European Union, the structure of the industry has quickly adapted to the new conditions. Six citrus Producer Organizations (P.O.) have already been recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment who in turn co-operate closely with private packers-exporters for the trading of their crop in export markets. The recognition of growers as P.O.s is significant as they will receive the added benefits for promoting and marketing their produce collectively, as well as being entitled to financial assistance. With the adoption of integrated crop production and EurepGAP certifications, which today cover more than 75% of the cultivated area, the Cypriot citrus industry is able to fulfill the expectations of the European market place. All citrus fruit are packed in registered packing houses equipped with modern packaging equipment, all situated within easy reach of the Limassol port.

 

Being an island, shipping is the only means of transportation to the markets. The port of Limassol offers all the essential facilities for loading the product on reefer vessels.

 

The UK is by far the major export market for Cyprus citrus with a share of 26% but other markets such as Russia, Ukraine and Slovenia are gaining in importance, as is Hong Kong and Singapore, which are proving to be good markets for early shipments of lemons. Overall exports to the EU follow a downward trend in recent years, counterbalanced to some extent by increasing exports to non EU countries.

 

Citrus Fruit Export Statistics: please click here

 

Visit Citrus Packers/ Exporters at the on-line exhibition Hall

 


 

POTATOES

Brief history of the potato: Archaeological evidence confirms that the potato has its origins in the Andes Mountains of Peru where the earliest forms of potato have been cultivated for approximately 4,500 years. Wild tubers have been found in the Peruvian plateau and mountainous regions, where it was too cold for wheat or corn to grow. They provided an ideal source of nutrition and were highly valued for their storage qualities. The Incas gradually developed frost-resistant varieties from wild tubers, called papa which were cultivated as part of their staple diet.

 

Western civilization did not come in contact with the potato before 1537 when the Spanish Conquistadors marched through Peru. It was even later, around the 1570s that potato crossed the Atlantic into Spain and it took another three decades to spread to mainland Europe. Europeans only realized the potential of potatoes in the 18th century when the Irish expanded the production of the crop. By the mid-1800’s the Irish would become so dependent on this crop that its failure due to "the (potato) Blight" (also known as phytophthora)  provoked a famine leading to starvation and emigration of nearly half its population. Since the 19th century, potato gradually became one of the major foods around the world thanks to its high nutritional properties and its good productive capacity.

 

In Cyprus, potatoes have probably arrived in the early 19th century either from Greece or Italy. Magda O. Richter2 wrote in the late 19th century, with a fair certainty that potatoes were initially brought to Cyprus by a well known Italian landowner named Balthazar Mattei in the mid 18th century. What appears certain is that by the late 19th century the potato was an important staple crop. The first recorded imports of seed potatoes took place in 1909 and gradually the production of potatoes spread throughout the island. By 1965 the Cyprus Potato Marketing Board was established as the sole buyer / exporter of potatoes responsible also for production planning and procuring/ packing all Cypriot potatoes.

 

Products/ varieties & season: Due to the mild climate and topography of the island, fresh potatoes are a year round crop but for practical, historical and statistical reasons, the Cypiot potato production is divided in 3 crops namely:

The WINTER CROP planted in August/September and harvested between November and February. This crop consists of 50% of the local consumption market and 50% of the export market.

 

The SPRING CROP or the 'Main crop' planted in November/February and harvested in March/June is the major export crop.

 

The INTERMEDIATE CROP planted in October and harvested in late February (a small crop mainly produced for export).

The predominant variety grown both for export and the local market is the Spunta potato, followed by Nicola and Cara that are both destined for the export markets.

 

Spunta: The variety accounts for as much as 25% of the total potato export volumes and is shipped mainly to Greek and UK wholesale clients in sizes of 45cm+. This variety is much less popular in Central European markets. Spunta is a medium early Dutch cultivar planted in Cyprus since 1968 making it the oldest variety still cultivated on the island and the major potato type acceptable to the local market. It produces fairly big and elongated tubers with a smooth pale-yellow skin and pale-yellow flesh with shallow eyes. A very versatile potato type, Spunta is used by most Cypriot households for frying, baking, salad &c purposes. 

 

Nicola: Cultivated since 1977, a promising variety with a high export potential as an early European preferred variety especially as a winter salad potato. Export volumes are under constant growth and it today accounts for 25-30% of the total potato export trade. Nicola is a second early variety, with a high number of uniform tubers per plan of medium low dry texture. The tubers are long, oval with yellow smooth skin, light yellow flesh and are regarded to be  ideal for boiling.

 

Cara: An Irish late maincrop variety particularly good as a ‘Baker’ type potato. It is a round /oval, pink eyed tuber with soft moist flesh particularly good as a baker due to the fact that it does not discolor on cooking. Cara is preferred by growers cultivating   late crops because of its strong foliage and high productivity.

 

Marfona: Very popular as an early baker variety in the German and Dutch markets. In sizes of 45cm+ it is also an acceptable substitute to the Spunta variety especially for the Greek market. It gives egg-shaped tubers with a light yellow skin and a smooth, waxy texture.  In general this variety produces attractive looking tubers which however turn green when exposed to light.

 

Filea: The seed of this German variety was first imported to Cyprus by the Potato Board in 1995.  It produces egg-shaped medium size tubers with a pale-yellow skin and yellow colored flesh. Filea is the preferred variety for the German market as a salad potato during the period from February to May.

 

Marabel: A German variety cultivated in Cyprus since 1994 and exported mainly to German and other central European markets. It is a general use (type B) potato with uniform shaped, medium to large size tubers and an attractive flavor. Marabel is also a preferred variety for potato growers due to its good post harvest handling characteristics that minimize mechanical injuries.

 

Charlotte: It is a second early maturity potato, producing moderate yields of uniform, smooth skinned tubers. Charlotte potatoes are oval to long oval, with light yellow skin and yellow flesh, the skin texture is smooth with shallow eyes and gives a firm texture when cooked. This is a specialty salad potato variety excellent for boiling much demanded by the French and Belgian markets. Its smaller size is also taken by UK supermarkets as a pre-packed salad potato. 

 

Other important varieties cultivated in Cyprus for the export markets are Diamant, Sieglinde, Anabelle, Frisia, Sante, Princess.

 

 

Information about the sector: About 70-75% of Cyprus potatoes are grown in the Red Soil area, a coastal region in the South-East of Cyprus between the towns of Famagusta and Larnaca. The red soil coupled with the mild climate offers an excellent combination for the production of high quality potatoes. The red soil is a unique characteristic that distinguishes Cypriot potatoes in foreign markets.

 

Around 5.300 hectares of potatoes are cultivated in Cyprus giving an annual production of 125-130 thousand tons. On average 60-70% of the total production is exported, mainly to European countries. Germany, Greece and the UK account for over half of the total exports while the rest are destined to other mainland European and Scandinavian countries.   Early harvests are a key to attaining good returns, a fact that was well taken by growers and traders in 2006 and further favored by good weather conditions during the winter period.

 

Export of Cyprus Potatoes 1999-2006

 

The Cyprus Potato Marketing Board, established by Law in 1964, secured for more than 40 years a fair share of the world market for the Cypriot growers. The role of the C.P.M.B however, has changed since Cyprus joined the EU the 1st of May 2004. The C.P.M.B. lost the monopolising power of marketing as well as its central role in planning for the whole Cypriot potato industry. Most of the growers are now organized in "Producers’ Organisations" who assign much of their export volumes to individual, well known and experienced potato traders.   

Potatoes for export are packed according to the clients preferences in polypropylene bags (15,20,25 Kg) in jumbos (1000 and 1250 Kg) and boxes of 500 Kg ( directly from the fields, and grated in various sizes (25-35/38mm, 35-45mm, 35-55mm, 45+mm, 65+mm, mixed sizes, etc). All potatoes for export are inspected during growth harvesting and packing by designated agronomists and State inspectors of the Department of Agriculture.

 

Potato Export Statistics: please click here

 

Visit Potato Packers/ Exporters at the on-line exhibition Hall

 


 

VEGETABLES & FRESH HERBS

Brief history: For centuries Cyprus has been famous for its production of fresh vegetables. Since antiquity onions and garlic were rated high in the Eastern Mediterranean area. Of great historical importance to Cyprus is the cauliflower which was planted for centuries on the island and was introduced to mainland Europe in the 16th century from Cyprus via Genoa. In England of 1586 cauliflower was referred to as "Cyprus colewort", suggesting its recent introduction from the island of Cyprus. For some time thereafter, Cyprus was mentioned as the source of seed for planting in England. Miller writing in 1807 says: "Cauliflowers were brought first from the Island of Cyprus, purple and white broccolis are only varieties of cauliflower". In her writings, German archaeologist Magda O. Richter2 offers supporting evidence by confirming that cauliflower reached Europe in the 1600 from Cyprus.

 

Researching into the subject matter of food in ancient Cyprus, Demetrios Michaelides3 comments explicitly on the caper as ‘one of the most attractive plants growing on the island, mentioned in the 2nd century by Galen the physician. He says: 'Caper is a bushy plant which grows in Cyprus in large quantities. We use the fruit of this plant more as a medicine than as food. It is brought to our region covered with salt because it disintegrates if stored by itself. When it is washed enough to take away the salt it is minimally nutritious as food, but as an aperitif and medicine it is suitable to make you hungry and clean the gastric liquid and stoppages of the spleen and liver. People eat the fresh ends of this plant like those of the terebinth, and when they are still green they put them, like those, in salty water or vinegar.' This passage of Galen is particularly important since it describes a situation still persisting ßç Cyprus today. Although no longer used as a medicament, the caper is wideIy consumed on the isIand. More importantIy, Cyprus is one of the few pIaces ßç the worId where the shoots of the caper, as well as the gherkin-Ißke fruit and the more wideIy-used buds, are still being preseríed in salt and vinegar. Equally important is GaIen's mention of the pickIing of the terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus) shoots in brine and vinegar. This again is a tradition that suríives on the island to this day, although on a very Iimited scaIe. In fact very few Cypriots are aware that the shoots of the terebinth can be eaten in this or any other way’.

 

Despite the long history in vegetables production, organised export of fresh vegetables from Cyprus is a fairly young business that started in the mid 1960s. This is obvious given the fact that Cyprus as an island requires air transport for facilitating its vegetable export business, something that was not available earlier. Vegetable exports flourished in the 1970s and 80s with significant volumes destined for the newly developed at the time, Middle East and Arab countries. In the late 1980s and early 1990s significant markets were opened in the UK supermarket sector but as competition intensified and the cost structure of Cypriot production and freight increased, significant product markets were lost, a fact that led to the reduction of the size and diversity of the export business. In recent years, exports are fairly stable and are mainly focused on a handful of products, where substantial export potential is still strong. Around 80% of total fresh herbs and vegetables exports are taken up by, 

  • Fresh herbs: coriander, parsley, mint dill
  • Fresh Spinach in bunches
  • Okra

Information about the sector: Vegetables exports are undertaken by a handful of private packers/ exporters most of whom have been in business for over 30 years. The greatest proportion of vegetables is air freighted to the destination markets, using cargo space available on scheduled passenger flights.   Produce is harvested, delivered to the pack houses and exported within a time frame of 12-24 hours thus ensuring its extra freshness. The produce is packed in corrugated cartons and pre-cooled before shipment, usually in conventional cold rooms. The main export season is limited to the period November-April, a time that European production is not available and sufficient to meet demand. Summer exports (June-October season) account for less than 25% of total exports and are limited to exotic items such as okra, chilies and molohia. Recent years have seen a gradual but steady increase in the export of fresh herbs as Cyprus enjoys a strong competitive advantage especially with regard to product quality characteristics dominated by their strong aroma and long shelf life.

 

Fresh Vegetables and Herbs Export Statistics: please click here

Visit Fresh Vegetables & Fresh Herbs Packers/ Exporters at the on-line exhibition Hall

 


 

TABLE GRAPES:

Brief history‘The earliest evidence for the existence of wild grapes in Cyprus came to light in 1973 during archaeological excavations at the Neolithic site of Ayios Epßktitos­-Vrisi in the Kyrenia District. Though one cannot be certain how this wild species (Vitis vßnßfera ssp. silvestrßs) was used, there is no doubt that it was collected intentionally from where it grew, not far from this settlement which dates to around 4500-3900 B.C. The grapes may have been used for making raisins to be eaten during the winter months. In its wild form this species could not have borne sweet tasting fruit. It is not possible to be certain if it was also used for making some kind of wine at this early date. The same species of wild grape also occurs at the Chalcolßthic settlement of Lemba-Lakkous in the Paphos District, dating to around the end of the 4th millennium B.C.’ (Karageorghis 1993)4. According to the same reference, archaeological evidence suggests that the cultivation of the grapevine (Vitis vßnßfera var vinefera) goes back to the early 2nd millennium B.C.  

 

Commercial vineyards are nowadays characterized by their short, stunted vines. In antiquity however Cyprus vines were known for their great height as Pliny (in Natutalis Historia) comments that ‘we ascend to the roof of the temple of Diana at Efesos on a staircase made from a single vine, grown in Cyprus where vines grow to an exceptional height’. Traditional grape culture is also trellised, further clarified by the Cypriot term, klimata. This practice is dated since the medieval period as W.W. Weaver comments on his monograph, The Royal Garden of Pefkou. The trellised system is still in place in some small traditional vineyards especially in the lowland areas because it allows for a sufficient flow of air to pass through the vines and protects the fruit from the extreme summer heat. In many rural and even town homes one can still see klimata providing also garden shelter.

 

Throughout this long history of vine growing, the island was better known for its wine making than its table grape production. Today, with a 4.000 year tradition behind, Cyprus is cultivated with some 17.000 ha of vines giving an annual production of 110,000 tons of grapes. Of these less than 20% are destined for the fresh market whilst the rest find their way to one of the several wineries of the island.

 

Area cultivated with Wine and Table Grapes in hectares for 1999-2004

 

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Wine Grapes

17,227

17,480

16,914

16,603

16,337

15,908

Table Grapes

1,639

1,711

1,335

1,341

1,113

1,213

Total

18,866

19,191

18,249

17,944

17,450

17,121

Source: Wine Products Council / Agricultural Statistics 2004

 

The wine vineyards are situated along the southern coastline and on mountainous and semi-mountainous areas of the southern and western slopes of the Troodos massif, in a zone which extends from an altitude of 250m to 1300m above sea level stretching from Limassol to Paphos. Table varieties thrive on the fertile plains stretching along the Limassol- Paphos coast line.

 

Production of Grapes for Wine & Table Grapes 1999-2004 in tons

Year

Table Wines

Wine Grapes

Total

1999

21.387

85.952

107.339

2000

20.116

90.566

110.682

2001

15.641

74.889

90.530

2002

13.405

47.141

60.546

2003

11.245

69.615

80.860

2004

21.144

87.171

108.315

Source: Wine Products Council

 

Exports are undertaken by packers situated mainly near the growing areas who are usually major citrus exporters as well. The produce is airfreighted at the start of the season so as to capitalize on the market gap while the main season production is sea freighted to destination markets. Packaging is usually done in open top carton boxes. Although the production season runs from late June to mid-October, exports are limited to a window gap between June and mid-July, the period of early maturity that gives Cyprus grapes a competitive advantage. The major varieties grown are Sultana, Thomson, early Perlette, Cardinal, Gold, Superior and the indigenous Verico.

 

 

Information about the sector: Cyprus table grape production is in substantial decline due to the loss of competitive edge in export markets.  Left with Sultana, a medium sized sweet berry and the early Perlette seedless variety, exporters are constantly lagging behind in foreign markets, a situation compounded by high production costs, rising freight charges and poor varietal mix.  Several attempts by growers to introduce new varieties did not provide adequate results because of the high water requirements, an essential input in achieving the demanded big-berried fruit. Fragmentation of land and small size of holdings are additional key factors that have contributed to the high cost structure of table grape cultivation. In the last five years export volumes have dropped from 3.000 tons in 2001 to a mere 540 tons in 2005. The early maturity gap has been filled by lower cost producing countries meaning that the table grape export industry is on a constant decline path.

 

 

Table Grapes Export Statistics: please click here

 

Visit Table Grapes Packers/ Exporters at the on-line exhibition Hall

 

Useful references:

  1. The Royal Garden of Pefkou, By Prof. William Woys Weaver. Published by the Moufflon Publications, Cyprus 2006
  2. Greek Customs in Cyprus, by Magda Ohnefalsch Richter. Published by the Cultural Center of the Cyprus Popular Bank 1994
  3. Food in Ancient Cyprus, By Demetrios Michaelides. In Food and The Traveler, published by the Intercollege Press Cyprus 1998
  4. The History of wine in Cyprus. A brief survey, By V. Karageorghis in Vines and Wines of Cyprus. 4000 years of tradition, Limassol 1993

 

 

Did you know that?

World citrus exports are estimated at 11 million tons with Spain, USA and South Africa leading the export league and Turkey showing up as a growing citrus trading power.

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