Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis on Tuesday warned stakeholders in the halloumi business that unless they agree to a compromise proposal of his, he would report any further violations of halloumi specifications under the protected designation of origin (PDO) to the attorney-general as well as to the EU’s Agri-Food Fraud Network.
Speaking in parliament, Kadis made one last appeal to farmers and manufacturers. He said his efforts are geared at allowing the mass production of halloumi under the PDO.
The minister also assured sheep and goat farmers of support so that they can raise milk production until 2024.
MPs argued that the en masse production of halloumi has yet to begin due to inadequate checks. Responding, Kadis attributed this to cheesemakers giving their own legal interpretation to the trademark.
Halloumi secured PDO status last April, and its production under that status started last October. However, producers claim that they face a series of problems concerning sufficiency of sheep and goat milk to meet the quota and other specifications that will not allow them to continue exporting it in large quantities, as the second most exported product of Cyprus.
On behalf of the cow farmers association, Nicos Papakyriacou said that Cyprus registered a good that in effect cannot be produced. “We patented a European product of the future while markets abroad are finding halloumi from elsewhere to do their business.”
He cautioned that Cyprus’ top export product might become the last unless the problems are solved.
Head of the cheesemakers association Giorgos Petrou noted that their refrigerators are filled with halloumi stocks. The cheesemakers want a solution so that not a single kilogram of their exports is lost, because they have “spilled blood” to get exports to the point they are today.
Earlier this month, the agriculture ministry suggested that one of the solutions could be the coexistence of halloumi that will be manufactured based on PDO, with halloumi made under the trademark that some producers owned before the registration of the product.
But he also said at the time that Cyprus would not want the PDO product next to the others on shop shelves, as it would confuse consumers.
The trademarked products include variants that can’t be included in the PDO such as ‘halloumi light’ and ‘halloumi chilli’, despite the fact that these variations could also bear the name and characteristics of halloumi.
Kadis also noted that any solution should be legally valid, adding that the European Commission in other cases allowed the coexistence of a pre-existing trademark and a PDO. However, he had added that any solution would have to go again through the European Commission.