French fries, boiled potatoes, yam potatoes, grilled potatoes, baked potatoes, french fries with eggs or artichokes. The Cypriot potatoes, no matter how one cooks them, are. Honey. What is the secret of the Cypriot potato? Why in Cyprus do we eat fresh potatoes ten months a year? And why in foreign markets are they getting bigger even though they are more expensive than other European ones?
Andreas Karyos, the president of the Pancyprian Organization of Potato Producers, introduces us to the world of potatoes, who welcomed us in one of his fields in the area of Achna, where on the day of our visit we were uprooted. Mr. Karyos plants 170 hectares of potatoes every year…
Annabelle or spun?
"Today we are uprooting the Annabel variety, a production destined for Germany. Tomorrow we will uproot Spounta, the variety that Cypriots, Greeks and the British especially like. Annabelle is the sweetest potato and is the best ingredient for a potato salad. But there are also people who do not like it. Each country has its own taste. In the past, the Germans preferred the Nikola variety. "Belgium also prefers Nicolas and Charlotte, while England wants, apart from Spounta, Kara and Morfona", Mr. Karyos explains to us. He adds, in fact, that the Cypriot consumer prefers the big potato for this and the main variety that feeds the market is Spounta.
According to Mr. Karyos, the Cypriot potato is not a specific variety, but consists of 20 varieties of imported potato seed.
From 20 varieties
As he points out, potato varieties are divided into three categories: those that are suitable for potato salad, the usual varieties that can be used in all types of cooking and those that are best for roasts or fries. As mentioned before, Annabelle makes excellent potato salad, while Spunda, Marabel and Lola, which are common varieties, can be cooked as one prefers. Diamond and Marfona are suitable for frying or puree.
Cyprus does not import potatoes since in the three months that there are no fresh ones on the market there are Cypriot frozen, not of course pre-fried, but whole raw potatoes that the producers keep in the cold rooms. According to Andreas Karyos, the only potatoes that are "imported" are through the regulation of the green line from the occupied ones and only when the potato prices of E / K farmers are high.
Cyprus, notes Mr. Karyos, produces around 20 varieties of potatoes. "We have a lot of varieties of potatoes, depending on the country of import of the seed. But it is not the potato seed that makes the Cypriot potato so delicious, but the soil and the conditions where it is produced ".
There is no native variety of potatoes as one can perceive. However, the Cypriot potato, regardless of the potato seed, is considered a brand because whatever variety it comes from, it stands out for its quality and taste.
"Our potato is delicious whatever variety you have, as well as to cook it. It has a difference in taste from potatoes of other countries ", says the president of the potato producers with pride.
More than 900 producers
The Pancyprian Potato Growers Organization consists of 430 members and constitutes around 50% of all potato growers.
Potatoes are produced all over Cyprus, but the largest quantities are produced, except in Kokkinochoria of Larnaca and Famagusta (Avgorou, Achna, etc.), in Kiti, in villages of western Nicosia such as Akaki and Peristerona and in its villages. Paphos like Mandria and Timi.
All Kokkinochoria are currently uprooting potatoes.
What makes the difference in the potato of Kokkinochoria is the climate and of course the components of the soil, the soil of the red soil of the area. These ingredients give it special organoleptic characteristics, in short they give it the deliciousness of potatoes and all other agricultural products produced in Kokkinochoria, when they are cooked.
150 thousand tons
The average annual production of potatoes in Cyprus is around 120 thousand tons. In some years it can reach up to 150 thousand tons. In the past, the production reached 200 thousand tons, but it decreased dramatically due to the fact that on the one hand the producers are decreasing - says Mr. Karyos with a complaint - and on the other hand because the cost is extremely high, which makes it difficult to market.
80% of potato production goes for export and the rest for local consumption. The hotel and tourism sector does not use the Cypriot potato. They prefer the pre-fried, an issue that Mr. Karyos raises with dissatisfaction.
"Unfortunately, the potatoes that feed tourism are pre-fried import potatoes. The restaurants and hoteliers claim that the pre-fried ones are easy to use, and cheaper of course, but they are certainly not good in quality and are not liked by the tourists, who leave them intact on the plate. And that makes sense. Because such potatoes can be found in any country πάν We have the best potato here and we offer the tourist pre-fried "!
If the Cypriot potato could be sold in the tourism sector, the potato growers would not look for markets for their export, which would make their marketing easier, as Mr. Karyos notes.
Europeans eat it
In the end, the Cypriot potato is not eaten by tourists, but by Europeans and not only.
"Europe is flooded with its own potatoes," Mr Karyos tells us. "But they prefer ours because of their taste and quality but also because we have fresh potatoes for many months. We export potatoes to many countries in Europe and to some countries in the Middle East. We export to England, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Norway, Austria, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. "In these countries, they eat Cypriot potatoes during periods when they do not have their own production."
As Andreas Karyos explains to us, Cyprus can have potatoes almost all year round and in fact the nine to ten months, except July, August, September, completely fresh. During the two summer months and the first autumn months, the Cypriot potatoes are in cold rooms.
"When they start making their own potatoes in Europe, they prefer them. But in times when there are no locals, the Cypriots get a very good price. The producer price is around 650-850 euros per ton, so 65-85 cents per kilo, while in Cyprus the price the producer gets is 40 cents, with the consumer of course buying 70 and 80 cents per kilo due to intermediate links in trade ".
The potatoes are uprooted by tractor and then picked by human hand. Mainly by foreign workers as it is difficult to find Cypriots for such jobs.
The reason that the Cypriot potato is fresh almost all year round, something that gives it very good dynamics in exports, is the climatic conditions that allow it two harvests per year and therefore early production. So, as Mr. Karyos explains, we have the winter and spring potatoes.
"The winter is the one that we uproot now and that starts and is planted from the beginning of August until October 20. The eradication starts around October 25 and ends at the end of February. The planting of the spring potato starts from November 1st until the end of February, while the rooting starts in the first days of March and ends at the end of June ".
The winter potato to be considered ready must remain in the soil for 90 days, while the spring potato between 100 and 110 days. Spring potato seeds are imported from the Netherlands, Denmark, England, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Winter potato seed is produced in Cyprus and even exported to Greece.
Consumers, eat it without fear
We asked Mr. Karyos if the potatoes are sprayed. The answer was yes, but… “The consumer must be calm. In recent years we have been implementing a product management and good practice program for which Europe has helped a lot. We record what we spray, always within the permissible limits, while analyzes are also made. We, the producers, have learned not to put reckless drugs in our product. "I tell you without hesitation that the consumer can eat Cypriot potatoes without fear."
Andreas Karyos explains why the potato of Kokkinochoria is the best