Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades says the registration of halloumi and hellim with the European Union is “to the benefit of all Cypriot producers, Greek and Turkish” following Monday’s designation for the famous cheese that grills but not without protests on both sides.
The President took to Twitter on Monday evening to praise the EU for registering Cyprus’ traditional cheese, halloumi in Greek and hellim in Turkish, as a product of Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O) following a long and protracted effort by the island.
“A milestone day for Halloumi/Hellim and our country,” Anastasiades wrote, adding that the PDO was a “shield of protection” for the product.
“Significant prospects for increasing exports of our national product, to the benefit of all Cypriot producers, Greek and Turkish,” the president wrote in two separate tweets in both official languages of the Republic.
But cheese makers and milk producers on both sides of the divided island have expressed concerns over the PDO, with Greek Cypriots in the south mainly concerned over final guidelines for halloumi production which they see as too strict.
Turkish Cypriots also expressed concern over the guidelines, fearing price hikes for exports while also raising a bigger issue that has to do with inspections.
'If one were to consider what other doors will be closing in the global competitive market, we believe the impact of production in the occupied areas will be negligible,' Kadis said
The European Commission recently made clear that halloumi and hellim could be traded between the two communities as long as all EU hygiene and safety standards were being met, while also allowing inspectors to cross to the other side before the product can be exported to the EU with a stamp of approval from the Republic of Cyprus.
Concerns in the south had been on the rise recently after Turkish Cypriots were rumored to push for direct trade with Britain, a move countered by Greek Cypriots as the northern part of the island is not recognized by other countries except Turkey.
According to the PDO registration, the Republic of Cyprus will designate a private firm to carry out hellim inspections in the north, while Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar recently raised objections over allowing Greek Cypriot officials in the south to have a say in the matter.
Turkish Cypriot trade unions also say their objections were not being heard by the Commission, an accusation that has been rejected by Miriam Garcia Ferrer, European Commission spokesperson for trade and agriculture.
EU says all objections have been noted
“We have analyzed carefully all the objections raised, and the Commission is now in a position to share its proposal with member states and has launched the process for a vote in the Quality Committee on March 26,” Ferrer said earlier this month.
But local media in the north reported that Turkish Cypriot trade union representatives had walked through the buffer zone to the Ledra Palace checkpoint to hand deliver a letter of objection, something they say it was not possible because the EU official did not come to pick it up.
Turkish Cypriot exports on hold for at least a year
According to reports, the Turkish Cypriot protesters were not against the PDO but wanted some terms to be modified, especially criteria during a transitional period for producers in the north.
Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis told media in the south that the cost of hellim production in the north was expected to go up, countering concerns of Greek Cypriot producers who cried foul over what they described as “unfair competition.” He also said the registration would halt exports for at least one year in the north. citing hygiene requirements.
Kadis also warned that imitation products on the global market have been a serious threat for Cyprus in recent years, arguing that allowing Turkish Cypriots to carry on with a long tradition of hellim production and trade through the Green Line regulation was a small price to pay.
PDO opens door to north, shuts out imitation abroad
“If one were to consider what other doors will be closing in the global competitive market, we believe the impact of production in the occupied areas will be negligible,” Kadis said.
“There could never be a PODO registration of the product if one segment of the population was left out,” the minister added.
Kadis also said imitation products such as delact, light, and chilli will no longer be allowed to be sold under the halloumi/hellim name.
The minster also defended the strict guidelines for production, saying the alternative would have been to allow others to compete with the national product of Cyprus.
“This is good for the community and our country,” Kadis said, adding that the government has met with Greek Cypriot producers and proposed a number of ideas to be discussed in order to help with production, thus averting further protests he added.
“The fact is that this product will be produced exclusively in Cyprus, and we need to make use of this new reality in a positive way,” Kadis added.