YGEA: The hen with the Organic Eggs
Written by Stella Mourettou & published by IN Business News Magazine
Ygea Farm is the largest producer of pure organic eggs in Cyprus. But this passion in organic now spans to other products, including olive oil, honey and herbs and spices. Overall a Bio oasis in Mathiatis, Cyprus.
According to the myth, a farmer once had a hen that laid one golden egg every day. One morning the man went mad and slaughtered his hen because he wanted the gold mine inside his bird’s belly. As a result, he lost both his hen and the golden eggs she laid.
On the contrary, the founder of Ygea farm Giorgos Contsantinides manages the daily production of 5,000 organic eggs. He firmly and steadily actualises his expansion plan in the market of olive oil, honey and herbs. The main activity of Ygea Farm concerns eggs, although it generally focuses on the production of organic products. This year the farm is entering the olive oil market as well, while it produces honey at the same time. Even though the honey does not contain any chemicals, it cannot be called organic, as bees can fly in a radius of three kilometres. “We also have herbs and spices at the farm which are not traded. Our goal is to increase these plants so that bees will not get out of the radius of three kilometres. Only then we will be sure about the purity of the honey we produce,” noted Mr. Constantinides.
In farms since his childhood
Mr. Constantinides is a livestock breeder and grew up in farms from an early age. “Our first farm was located in a territory that is now occupied. Until I was ten, I used to stay at the farm for many hours with my grandfather who is missing since 1974. It was a big farm with pigs and cows in the area of Aglantzia near Tymbou. We were forced to abandon it during the invasion. However, my father went there secretly every night to take the animals out. Thus, we managed to rent an area near Athalassa park. We built a new farm, whereas the government later gave us agricultural land in Geri.” Nonetheless, there was lack of security and safety during those days, so he decided to sell the farm in order to return some years later in a wider sector and with another scope. “My friend and I came up with the idea of using the land I had in Mathiatis to cultivate organic products. Hence, we applied for a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture so as to build our production unit. We were given €170,000 from the EU, but the overall project cost €450,000.”
A bio oasis
As he has stated, he proceeds on the basis of a five-year plan and this year it will be two years since the beginning of the project: “We want to create an oasis; to plant about 500 trees as well as 500-600 aromatic trees and plants such as sage and rosemary, carob trees, hawthorn trees and olive trees. We have already planted 300 prickly pear plants. Prickly pear is a superfood from the flowers of which not only do bees benefit, but its fruit crop is also beneficial for humans and even hens. The development of the beehives is already included in the company’s plans and it has already begun. For this reason, the company has applied to rent agricultural land: “Andreas Loizou, the farm’s caretaker who is also a beekeeper will manage honey production together with young people who work in this particular field. Of course, if we all agree on this we could promote the product under the brand Ygea.”
20.000 eggs a week
The company produces around 3,000 eggs a day in the summer and nearly 5,000 a day in the autumn. It sells about 20,000-21,000 eggs a week and owns 4,000 hens and 2.500 chicks. “We import the chicks from Holland every ten months. Each hen remains at the farm for 80-90 weeks before it retires,” he pointed out.
“I hold the biggest market share in the production of organic eggs,” he says “I have the largest unit of organic eggs in Cyprus, which is still very small in comparison to other companies. Of course, I refer to organic farmers and not to farms that produce organic products, barn eggs and free-range eggs at the same time.”
Mr. Constantinides’s next goal is to create a special brooding pen, to keep the chicks that he imports from Holland, where they will be staying for the next 14 weeks. After this, they have to be kept in a chamber where they will start laying eggs until they retire. “The brooding pen will help the chicks to become pullets and later hens that lay eggs. This way they will grow in a more controlled environment with regard to temperature and humidity. Furthermore, there will also be automatic drinking and feeding devices.”
The continuity of access to markets
The availability of the product is perhaps the most difficult part. The supermarkets will open their doors only if your product is really good.” Our product was good and thus we managed to sell our eggs to Athienitis and Alphamega Supermarkets, some green shops, many restaurants, confectioneries and even bakeries. ”He also stressed that the most important thing is the acceptance and trust of the people. “The income is not our most important goal. Our major concern is the people’s satisfaction with our product. We do not use any antibiotics or chemicals and we are honest with our customers. Therefore, their satisfaction is our greatest reward.” In fact, the production unit is open to everyone, although there is no visiting schedule. With this in mind, anyone can visit the farm and witness the daily work at the farm with their own eyes: “First and foremost, you need to win the trust of the customer. Thereafter, our product is mostly being advertised by word of mouth.”
Why not abroad?
Another issue faced by the company since its creation concerns bio feed stocks: “If the ship is late at the port, or the dockworkers are on strike, then we have a serious problem. For this reason, we make sure we always have bio feed stocks. Every month we import bio feed stocks from Biogreco Mills in Sparta and we even cooperate with Riverland Farm in order to reduce the cost of transport. Moreover, all organic farmers abide by one unwritten law, to help one another. Whenever a farmer faces shortages, he is being supported by others. Mr. Constantinides’s company is not only planning on selling its products on the local market. It is also looking forward to selling its products abroad. Although the company has not currently expanded its exports, it considers doing it. “There is an interest coming from countries of the Arabian Gulf for Ygea organic eggs, but we still do not have sufficient production. The brooding pen will help us with this, as we will be able to produce a stable number of eggs with about 7.000 hens in the production.”
Source: IN Business News, YGEA: The Hen with the Organic Eggs