The government says the halloumi market is big enough for everyone, signaling that Cypriot authorities could rethink the protected designation of origin following an embarrassing ruling in the UK.
Industry and Commerce Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis, who also heads the Energy and Tourism ministries, says “a big and serious mistake” was to blame for the state recently losing a case in Britain, essentially forfeiting the commercial rights of the name “Halloumi” in the UK.
Speaking before a Commerce House committee on Wednesday, Lakkotrypis described the handling of the case on the Cypriot end as a big mistake.
“I am reading through the case over and over again and I cannot comprehend how such a serious mistake could have taken place,” the minister said.
John & Paschalis says they are willing to withdraw their petition if the Republic of Cyprus agrees to accept a wider range of halloumi specifications
Lakkotrypis also said even though there was a special unit handling the halloumi case, which is facing about 80 legal challenges per year, there were only two people on staff who are trained to seek legal assistance when deemed necessary.
British company John & Paschalis, an importer of food products from Cyprus and Greece, had filed a petition against the Republic of Cyprus following a dispute over specification set for halloumi in the island’s Protected Designation of Origin application (PDO).
Due to a failed internal process within the government of Cyprus, notices by the company’s lawyers and a deadline set by a British Court passed without the state responding to the petition. As a result, a British judge found no reason not to award commercial licence to John & Paschalis to use the “Halloumi” brand in the UK as well as third countries where it is doing business.
John & Paschalis says they are willing to withdraw their petition if the Republic of Cyprus agrees to include a wider range of halloumi specifications, such as the traditional method that does not call for milk to be heated to 65 degrees, non- pasteurized milk, different shapes, and production method.
“The company wishes to see specifications for halloumi include all types of halloumi cheese that are produced in Cyprus, so that Cypriot producers can benefit in exporting their product globally,” a company statement said.
Lakkotrypis says the government attempted to correct the error initially but it was too late, as no time was left for the state to respond with its written objections. Red tape and interdepartmental deferrals reportedly wasted valuable time, while a probe has been launched to find who may be responsible for the delays.
The minister also acknowledged that losing the commercial use of halloumi in the UK was a significant blow but said there were alternatives and possible solutions.
“The brand is protected by the European communautaire, despite there being a cancellation of the commercial brand in the UK,” Lakkotrypis said.
Lakkotrypis confirmed that John & Paschalis wishes to negotiate specifications for halloumi regarding the PDO application, which was filed back in 2012.
“There is room for everyone and there shouldn’t be battles for a Cypriot product such as halloumi,” he said, adding that there are solutions to the problem.
Halloumi, a popular Cypriot semi-hard cheese that can be grilled, is also known as Hellim. Halloumi is particularly popular in Britain but it also finds its way on the lists of other countries as a gourmet product.