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12° Nicosia,
15 June, 2024
 

A cheesy dilemma as Halloumi faces new market challenges

Competition, regulations, and milk quotas impact the iconic Cypriot cheese

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

Amid renewed discussions on the PDO halloumi milk quota, a fresh challenge has emerged for producers and the competitiveness of the product. The market now sees products labeled as "grilled cheese," which do not originate from Cypriot cheese dairies, posing a potential threat to the industry. During a visit to the market, 'K' identified at least two cases of such products displayed alongside PDO halloumi and Cypriot cheese, which are imported from Greece and Hungary and sold at a lower price than the Cypriot cheese. Notably, Cypriot cheese, made from cow's milk and low in fat, caters to a different consumer category and is not in direct competition with halloumi.

Producers themselves emphasize the importance of promoting halloumi over competing products like Cypriot cheese, as these alternatives lack a competitive edge over foreign-produced imitations with lower production costs. The Association of Hypermarkets suggests this may be an isolated case, with demand for halloumi remaining high despite cost increases. However, concerns arise in the catering and hospitality sector, as consumers may struggle to distinguish between authentic halloumi bearing the PDO stamp and imported imitations.

Among the concerns raised is the practice of packing plants importing grilled cheese from abroad, rebranding it with the cheese factory's code, and selling it as a Cypriot product.

This issue is just one of several challenges discussed at a recent meeting involving various stakeholders in the production and marketing chain of Cypriot halloumi, predominantly in foreign markets. Among the concerns raised is the practice of packing plants importing grilled cheese from abroad, rebranding it with the cheese factory's code, and selling it as a Cypriot product. This poses a regulatory loophole that should be addressed by relevant ministries.

Milk Powder Concerns:

In 2022, slightly over 44,200 tons of halloumi were produced, with approximately 41,000 tons designated for export and 3,200 tons for domestic consumption. Disturbingly, an estimated 7,000 tons of halloumi within the total 44,200 tons were produced using milk powder. The meeting between the Minister of Agriculture and producers highlighted serious shortcomings in product control on the market, both by government ministries and Bureau Veritas. Notably, this issue is less prevalent in large dairies, but it remains a significant concern for the Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture.

Sheep and Goat Milk Quota:

The ongoing concern for the product's viability revolves around the milk quota. The latest Ministry of Commerce decree mandates a minimum of 19% goat and sheep milk in the halloumi mix for the October-January period, based on production data. This percentage had previously been set at 10%. The data suggests fluctuating participation of sheep and goat milk, with the average milk participation for non-dry seasons being 31%, reaching up to 34% in some months. The recent increase to 19% for October-January and 25% for other months is considered conservative, and future adjustments may be necessary to ensure the sustainability of halloumi production.

[This opinion piece was translated from its Greek original and may not relay the exact nuance of its original]

TAGS
Cyprus  |  halloumi  |  economy

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