Halloumi dispute softens

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Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis appeared confident that a standoff between authorities and dairy producers over what makes a Halloumi will soon end after the two sides met President Nicos Anastasiades.

Afterwards, Kadis said that the meeting was fruitful, with possible solutions being tabled by both sides.

The meeting came after the government pressured dairy producers that do not meet the required EU standards under the cheese’s PDO (Product of Designated Origin).

Products that defy the PDO criteria cannot carry the Halloumi brand in local stores or be exported.

Kadis said that possible solutions were discussed, “which will be implemented in the context of the ruling of the Attorney General, addressing the concerns submitted by the Cheesemakers’ Association”.

“Very specific suggestions have been tabled to address these concerns.

“The goal is to reach mutually acceptable decisions in the best interest of our prized product, Halloumi.”

Kadis said the government would consider that cheesemakers have large halloumi stocks, which they could not sell during COVID.

He said authorities would also meet other stakeholders, namely the goat and sheep breeders.

President of the dairy producers’ association, George Petrou, said: “a big step has been taken towards a final solution, following the instructions of the Attorney General”.

Petrou did not want to publicly refer to the proposals put forward by the association before negotiations with other groups were concluded.

“No milk will be wasted; no exports will be endangered”.

Last week, Cyprus’ Law Office had urged the Agriculture and Commerce Ministries to tighten checks to stop substandard halloumi from reaching shops.

According to the legal services, there is only room for a single product labelled halloumi, which is the one that meets the specifications of the PDO.

It argued that having different halloumi on the market will cause confusion and lead to consumers being deceived.

The PDO file submitted in 2014 said goat’s milk should by 2024 exceed cow’s milk, reaching a minimum of 51%, produced from specific Cypriot breeds of goats and sheep.

This did not satisfy cheesemakers who feared the loss of halloumi exports, claiming they could make halloumi under the EU Trademark, bypassing the milk ratio criteria.

Other stakeholders in Cyprus’ squeaky white cheese are the goat and sheep breeders who have protested the non-implementation of the PDO file by dairy producers, as this means that their milk is left unsold.

Goat and sheep breeders criticised the government for not carrying out the necessary checks.

Breeders argue that their livelihood is at stake with dairy producers not conforming to the PDO criteria.

Sales and exports of halloumi in 2020 and 2021 generated €270 mln annually, despite COVID restrictions.