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25 April, 2024
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7,000 tons of halloumi on the brink

Secret milk use sparks halloumi alarm


Official Ministry of Agriculture data have unveiled a critical situation in the halloumi production industry, a beloved and essential product in Cyprus. As reported by Philenews, from an annual production capacity of 44,000 tons, nearly 7,000 tons of halloumi may face an unprecedented shortage due to insufficient sheep, goat, and cow milk supplies.

To put it into perspective, the available milk resources allow for the production of approximately 38,000 tons of halloumi, leaving a gaping deficit of 7,000 tons. This shortage has sparked concerns over potential undisclosed milk or milk powder usage, potentially compromising the integrity of this iconic product. In response to this crisis, authorities are actively exploring measures to mitigate the situation, including the possible incorporation of milk powder.

Interestingly, the issue of milk powder in halloumi production is not new. Director General of the Pancyprian Cow Farmers Organization, Nikos Papakyriakou, previously expressed concerns during a Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture meeting on September 12 last year. He disclosed that an astonishing 80% of cheese manufacturers employ milk powder in their production processes.

Addressing the challenge of detecting milk powder in halloumi, an accreditation methodology centered on precise cutting techniques is currently in development. Additionally, efforts are underway to trace the DNA of the milk used, providing insights into its origin, whether domestic or foreign.

In response to these pressing concerns, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development, and Environment has called for an extraordinary meeting at the Agricultural Research Institute on Monday at 6 p.m. The meeting will deliberate on the evolving circumstances within the halloumi industry in the wake of a new decree implemented on October 20. This decree elevates the minimum requirement for sheep and goat milk in halloumi from 10% to 19%.

The meeting will draw key stakeholders from the halloumi production sector, sheep and goat farmers, cow and cheese producers, and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI). This assembly is a direct outcome of an aged eedddddddddhbbreement reached in July 2022, which led to the Ministry of Agriculture inviting the Minister of Commerce to sign the new decree stipulating the minimum utilization of sheep and goat milk. In light of this development, cow farmers who had planned a Pancyprian gathering this morning have been informed that relevant ministers will not be in attendance.

The central objective of this meeting is to ensure that all parties involved honor the agreement they have collectively endorsed. It's noteworthy that the issue of the percentage of sheep and goat milk in the halloumi mixture, as stipulated by the agreement until January 2024, will be contingent on milk availability, with a minimum threshold of 10%.

Recent days have witnessed Ministry of Agriculture inspectors conducting comprehensive administrative and laboratory checks, including sampling halloumi from cheese factories, to ensure compliance with PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) standards. This aligns with the new Ministry of Commerce decree, which mandates a minimum of 19% sheep and goat milk in halloumi.

Furthermore, supplementary checks may be conducted in venues where halloumi is available for consumption, such as hotels, restaurants, and cafes. Some of these establishments have been found to source grilled cheese blocks from factories and market them as halloumi. Shockingly, some of these blocks may contain no milk at all, with milk powder being the sole ingredient.

In a separate development, the halloumi crisis was discussed during a recent Cabinet meeting, where the President of the Republic was briefed on the latest developments and the reactions, particularly from cheese and cow farmers, following the October 20 decree.

Significantly, based on statements from cheese manufacturers and available data, the Ministry of Agriculture is contemplating a potential return to the previous sheep and goat milk participation levels, which were in place from the commencement of the transitional period in July 2014 until August 2022. This regulation required a 20% contribution of sheep and goat milk during the dry period, spanning from September to December, with adjustments in January.

The halloumi industry, a source of national pride in Cyprus, is at a crossroads as stakeholders grapple with the challenges posed by milk shortages and potential adulteration. As authorities convene to find solutions, the fate of this cherished product hangs in the balance.

[With information sourced from Philenews]

Cyprus  |  halloumi  |  milk  |  factory

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