COVID19: Halloumi export sales slow

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After a record year for Cyprus’ flagship export halloumi, demand for the squeaky cheese has slowed with order cancellations and undelivered quantities due to lockdowns across Europe to combat the second wave of coronavirus.

Cyprus dairy producers are reporting a slowdown in exports for the first time in 15 years, as year-on-year sales increase dropped in January to 10% from an average 20-25%.

Prompted by the success of previous years and a commitment to absorb more milk from cattle breeders, halloumi producers have increased production, only to see a large chunk of their products stuck in freezers.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, President of the Dairy Producers Association George Petrou said 7,000 tonnes of halloumi are currently in producers’ freezers.

Last year ended with halloumi generating a whopping €260 mln from exports of 40,000 tonnes, yielding €115 mln from 17,000 tonnes sold to the UK importers.

In comments to the Financial Mirror in January, Petrou said: “If measures continue for more than three months, then stocks will begin to pile up as dairy producers cannot simply stop making halloumi.”

Petrou said there is a commitment by dairy producers to buy milk produced by cattle breeders, following a deal with the government not to push for an increase in goat or sheep milk in the halloumi mix.

In previous years, dairy producers and the Ministry of Agriculture put pressure on cow and sheep breeders to increase milk production to meet halloumi demands.

Petrou told CNA, however, that if stocks continue to pile, in combination with a decree that imposes an increase of goat or sheep milk in the halloumi mix, then significant quantities of cows’ milk could remain unused.

Dairy producers are increasingly concerned over Brexit implications as some 40% of exports head for the UK.

There is a worry Turkish Cypriots could bypass the Republic of Cyprus, and export halloumi directly to the UK, taking a bite out of Greek Cypriot exports

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar raised the issue of direct trade when meeting UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Thursday.

Petrou said Turkish Cypriot halloumi producers could make export deals with British importers, beating Greek Cypriots to the punch as they will be able to produce it cheaper.

“Besides, the trademark for halloumi reregistered in the United Kingdom also covers the Turkish Cypriots.”