The first badge of halloumi bearing the PDO certificate has been produced by a Greek Cypriot dairy business in Frenaros, but comments in Turkish Cypriot media gave way to a war of words over which side actually authorizes inspections on the ethnically divided island.
Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis attended on Wednesday the first ever production of the traditional Cypriot halloumi/hellim cheese, bearing for the first time the certificate of product of protected designation of origin (PDO).
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the minister said SOMIS Dairy Industry, which was a strong advocate for the POD certificate from the beginning, was among those dairies that will secure their future and carry on the tradition of the Cypriot cheese known the world over.
“Today is a day of great satisfaction because we see our labors bearing fruit following recent efforts to register our national product so that the traditional and authentic halloumi can be produced in Cyprus,” Kadis said.
The minister told state radio Thursday morning that he was aware of various smaller dairy farms that have started PDO production “but this is the first one among the bigger companies.”
Kadis attributed the head start in Frenaros to Somis’ history, noting that the traditional dairy has been supplying halloumi to the Scandinavian market, saying “Sweden is the world’s second per capita consumer of halloumi after Cyprus.”
Greek Cypriot refugee got Sweden hooked on halloumi
As it turns out, a Greek Cypriot refugee went to Sweden in 1975 and three years later he founded Fontana Food AB, a family business dedicated to supplying the host country with traditional halloumi.
“They took 40 halloumi chunks to Sweden in 1980 and they sold out in just a year,” Loizos Papadopoulos told CNA, referring to his parents who fled the north after the events of 1974.
'I can understand there may be a need for Turkish-speaking staff to be included in the operations in the north, but all inspections on the island will be authorized by the Greek branch'
But Turkish Cypriot producers have been crying foul over the head start by their Greek Cypriot competitors in the south following recent PDO regulations.
Local media in the north say Bureau Veritas, an internationally-accredited inspection body tasked with ensuring Cypriot producers respect the traditional recipe and health standards, is expected in the north later this month.
But a war of words has been taking place as to which side was the one authorizing Bureau Veritas, which was picked by both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Kadis previously indicated the south was open to striking a deal with the north, where some role would be assigned to Turkish Cypriot officials but not as part of an authorized body.
Turkish Cypriot farmers representative Mustafa Naimoglulari says he expect inspectors from the Turkish branch of Bureau Veritas to arrive on the island later this month, adding that around €40 million in EU funds was expected in the next few years.
“This is a very nice development. When the company inspectors come here, they will lay put down requirements for the producers and dairy industries, and we shall do what is necessary,” Naimoglulari told media in the north.
Last month Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar told Kathimerini Cyprus that Turkish Cypriot authorities ought to have control over hellim including the right to have a say in the appointment of supervisors.
But Kadis went on to clarify Thursday that label inspections on both sides of the divided island have been authorized by the Greek branch of Bureau Veritas, not the one in Turkey.
“I can understand there may be a need for Turkish-speaking staff to be included in the operations in the north, but all inspections on the island will be authorized by the Greek branch,” Kadis said.
The Halloumi/Hellim registration allows producers anywhere on the divided island to benefit from the PDO status of the iconic Cypriot cheese with a unique texture, folded appearance, and suitability for grilling or pan frying, famous the world over.
The new status went into effect October 1 but a transitional period with special rules for one year applies in the north.