A Greek Cypriot businessman is being harassed for buying Turkish Cypriot potatoes for export under the Green Line Regulations (GLR).
Christos Christofi said that he has received threats that his packing plant would be burned down.
He told Cyprus Mail that a group of about 200 people showed up at his packing plant located in Achna, in Famagusta district to protest. The group consisted of farmers, potato exporters and seven MPs.
British Bases police stopped the group from entering the plant. “They protected us”, Christofi said.
The problem started when he made an agreement on the Turkish Cypriot side in July, to export Turkish Cypriot potatoes through South Cyprus ports. Such an arrangement is legal under the GLR which was introduced in 2004 by the EU. The move was intended to help Turkish Cypriots trade, although the scheme works both ways.
When Christofi began bringing over potato consignments, shots were fired outside his house prompting him to stop for a while.
On Thursday and Friday last week he started to bring over potatoes again and by Saturday there was a mob of around 200 people, including the MPs protesting outside the plant, he said.
“There were farmers with some politicians demonstrating outside my premises saying what I was doing was illegal,” Christofi said.
He added that he had received phone threats warning that his premises would be burned down, and that problems would be caused for his family.
Four of the seven MPs at the protest on Saturday were from ruling DISY. Christofi said he identified two of them as Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis and Giorgos Georgiou, both MPs for the Famagusta district. He said he did not recognise the other two DISY deputies.
Michalis Georgallas from the Solidarity Movement – a Famagusta deputy – and the two far-right ELAM deputies, Christos Christou and Linos Papayiannis, the latter also a Famagusta district deputy, were there as well, according to Christofi.
Most of the 150 tonnes of potatoes Christofi has brought over have been mainly exported to Greece and the UK, he said. The businessman has contracted to bring over a total of 700 tonnes of potatoes, none of which will be sold locally.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis visited the packing plant on Monday and confirmed that everything was legal and within the scope of the GLR, which provides that consignments from the North must be checked by an EU official to certify they are of Turkish Cypriot origin and are safe for consumption.
“We are trying to create good relations,” said Christofi of his deal with the Turkish Cypriot business. “I want our country to be reunited and if we don’t start now, then what’s the point?”
The latest Green Line report for 2015 states that the total value of goods, for which accompanying documents were issued, amounted to €3.93 million compared with €3.91 million in 2014, an increase of 0.58 per cent.
The report also mentioned that traders from both communities were faced with multiple administrative problems when attempting to do business with the other community. “The economic operators from both sides need to be free to engage in trade relations, based on their business requirements,” the report concluded.