A ceasefire between Halloumi producers and the government agreed upon a year ago has ended, as an agreement over what makes the cheese special is once again questioned by dairy farmers.
Some cheesemakers, including Papouis Dairies, one of the largest dairy producers on the island, have filed an appeal before the European Court, demanding the squeaky cheese’s status as a Product of Origin (PDO) be withdrawn.
They are claiming that Halloumi’s PDO status is financially harming producers.
The move comes a year after dairy producers and officials ratified an agreement reached at the end of July 2022, temporarily ending a dispute over Haloumi’s Product of Origin file approved by the EU.
The agreement foresees that the thorny issue of the cow-to-goat and sheep milk ratio will be resolved, with the Agriculture Ministry conceding to producers’ demands to postpone the implementation of the PDO milk ratio until 2024.
After an initial 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 determined as the months from February to August when goat and sheep milk production is at its lowest.
For the rest of the year, the ratio is set at a minimum of 25% goat and sheep milk.
Based on the deal, the ratio will be increased by 5% and added to the 25% every year until the 50% level is reached in 2029.
However, the appeal could endanger the future status of the traditional cheese in international markets, according to Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos, quoted by Kathimerini Cyprus edition.
“There are three scenarios for the outcome of the case, either the appellant loses or wins, or the court, because of the objections presented, restores the original specifications for the production of PDO halloumi as it was published,” said Xenophontos.
This would mean that changes agreed upon with dairy producers and officially requested by Cyprus would be void.
The minister explained that the changes allowed dairy producers to continue making Halloumi spinoffs, such as burgers and fries, under the EU-approved Product of Origin file (PDO).
Meanwhile, Halloumi exports are reaching new heights.
Halloumi exports in 2022 amounted to €284.5 mln, registering an increase of 8% compared to 2021.
Exports in January-April this year were €111.8 mln, compared to €99.1 mln in the same period of 2022.
“The PDO file ensured that the product is manufactured in Cyprus and will protect it from imitations,” said Xenophontos.
He appealed to the dairy producers to withdraw their legal action as exports have improved since the PDO branding.
“We call on them again to think rationally and withdraw their appeal against the product.”