First Turkish Cypriot halloumi PDO breaks barriers

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The European Commission has awarded the first PDO certificate to Turkish Cypriot Halloumi producers, with the Agriculture Ministry welcoming the development as proof that equal benefits are ensured for all producers.

Turkish Cypriot producer Gulgun Sut Mamulleri is the first business in the north to be awarded a Protected Designation of Origin certificate for halloumi/hellim.

“The first producer from the Turkish Cypriot community was assessed to be compliant with the requirements set out in the ‘Χαλλουμι’ (Halloumi)/’Hellim’ PDO product specification,” the EU Commission said.

“We remain committed to working with both Cypriot communities, contributing to the rebuilding of trust between them and paving the way to the island’s reunification,” it added.

According to Brussels, 58 producers in the government-controlled south have received the necessary accreditation.

Meanwhile, through an Agriculture Ministry statement, the government welcomed the award as proof of the role the EU can play in resolving the Cyprus problem.

“The Republic of Cyprus has over the years made vigorous efforts to promote halloumi as a PDO, for both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot producers to benefit from its registration.

“Therefore, the Republic of Cyprus maintained a constructive attitude towards revising the Green Line Regulation so that our Turkish Cypriot compatriots can also benefit.

“The development also highlights the benefits bestowed to all Cypriots by being part of the EU and the crucial role the bloc has to play,” said the ministry.

It supports President Nikos Christodoulides’ efforts to get the EU more involved in attempts to break the impasse on Cyprus talks.

White gold

Halloumi cheese is considered ‘white gold’ worth €1.34 bln in exports from 2017-2021, with revenue expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, Cyprus dairy producers in the first nine months of 2022 exported 32,000 tonnes of halloumi worth €227 mln.

An increase of 23% from 2020 — the best year for halloumi exports.

The traditional cheese is a major export, along with citrus fruits, cement, potatoes, and pharmaceuticals, with a 16.8% share.

Cyprus’ PDO file was submitted in 2014, with the cheese gaining EU status on 1 October 2021, after lingering in the EU hallways, entangled in Cyprus problem politics and local disputes between authorities and cheesemakers.

Halloumi’s PDO status means the rubbery cheese can only be produced in Cyprus under strict criteria, preventing imitators worldwide from claiming the crown.