The government has launched an action plan to promote halloumi as a ‘product of designated origin’ (PDO) after the European Commission rubberstamped its authenticity as a Cypriot product.
Aiming to boost the squeaky cheese’s recognition as an original Cypriot product and increase exports, the Commerce Ministry launched the website halloumi.cy, offering several services to consumers and importers.
The halloumi.cy website offers services in English, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese, detailing the rich history of the cheese in Cyprus, verified producers and recipes.
Presenting the website on Monday, Commerce Minister Natasa Pilides said the languages chosen to correspond to the cheese’s most bountiful prospective markets while aiming to boost brand awareness.
Pilides said the website is part of a two-year roadmap that includes an ad campaign across several platforms in 42 markets.
In addition, advertisements will be placed in specialised publications and broadcasts; posts will be made on social media, and the product will be linked with international culinary personalities.
The minister said halloumi would be advertised as a premium product, an ingredient for “high cooking”.
Described as the crown jewel of Cyprus’ agricultural exports, the site details that halloumi exports currently total almost 40 million kilos worth more than €250 mln a year.
Producers predict that exports could reach over €300 mln in 2023.
Today halloumi is exported to more than 50 countries, with the main export markets being the UK, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Austria, Denmark, and Poland.
These six markets account for 81% of total halloumi exports internationally.
Some 43% of all exports are earmarked for the UK.
The product is gaining ground as an authentic Cypriot cheese in promising markets such as the USA, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain.
The head of the Cyprus cheesemakers association, George Petrou, raised concern over unfair competition from producers in the north, who as he claimed, imported animal feed from Turkey, which violates Halloumi’s PDO criteria.
He argued that Turkish Cypriots would produce milk cheaper and undercut Greek Cypriot producers.
Responding to Petrou’s concerns, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said he found them valid but reassured producers that strict checks would be carried out.
Kadis explained that Bureau Veritas, an international organisation tasked with monitoring PDO Halloumi production, will keep a close eye on both sides of the divide.
Halloumi’s PDO status, EU approved in April 2021, means the rubbery cheese can only be produced in Cyprus under strict criteria, preventing imitators worldwide from claiming the crown.
The process has been bumpy, as stakeholders could not agree on the milk ratio used for the traditional cheese.
Cyprus’ 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.
A recent agreement between authorities, farmers and producers saw the 2024 deadline pushed back to 2029.
After a transitional period up to 2024, products may be labelled “halloumi” if they contain at least 10% goat and sheep milk during the ‘low’ season and 25% during the high season.
The low season is February to August when goat and sheep milk production is at its lowest.
Based on the deal, the ratio is to be increased by 5% on top of 25% every year until the 50% level is reached in 2029.