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04 October, 2023
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Lawsuit threatens €284.5M PDO halloumi industry

Agriculture minister calls for logical decision

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

Shortly before the completion of a year (July 22, 2022) since the agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture, producers, cheesemakers, and KEVE, and the implementation of the terms of the European Regulation in the halloumi production chain, it seems that Cyprus' protected cheese is facing new challenges. This time, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, a group of cheesemakers, including Papouis Dairies, has filed an appeal against the European Union before the European Court, seeking the annulment of the legal act of registration as they believe it directly harms them. Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos refers to this as a dangerous development and urges the specific company to reconsider its stance. The appeal was submitted on June 6, 2023, and a decision is expected by the end of the year. There are three possible outcomes of the case: either the appellants lose, they win, or the court, in light of the issues raised, reverts to the original specifications for the production of PDO halloumi, as initially published, without the subsequent changes that were agreed upon.

Regardless of the outcome, the appeal against the Regulation is a negative development for the product, especially when it comes from producers within the same member state. In practice, even if the appellants don't win, there is a significant possibility that the production framework of the product might change.

The appeal was submitted to the European Court on June 6, and a decision is expected by the end of the year.

In essence, this means that the requested changes concerning the production of halloumi in Cyprus, which eventually unlocked mass production based on the specifications, might not be implemented. These modifications were included in the agreement of July 22, 2022, and involved minor characteristics to allow the production of PDO halloumi with different shapes and sizes, increased moisture, and milk sourced from all cows living and reproducing in Cyprus. Based on these changes, folded halloumi, halloumi in burger shape, block, cubes, grated, and sliced halloumi are considered PDO products. These changes were used, according to the Minister, as part of the case against the product. The appeal was initiated in early June against the European Commission for the terms of the PDO regulation, arguing that it harms the cheesemakers. Despite efforts by the Ministry to have the appeal withdrawn, it was not successful. "Unfortunately, reason did not prevail," said Petros Xenophontos.

One of the main obstacles to the registration of halloumi, which still seems to persist, was the quota in milk and the balance between cow and goat/sheep milk, with the Regulation favoring goat/sheep milk. The quota stands at 51% goat/sheep and 49% cow milk, which practically cannot be met due to the limited availability of goat/sheep milk. While efforts are being made to increase the quantities through incentives for investments in new units, in the meantime, the Ministry of Commerce has issued a relevant decree setting the minimum ratio of goat and sheep milk in the raw materials used for halloumi production during the period between February 1, 2023, and August 31, 2023, at 25%. According to the decree, during the period between September 1, 2023, and January 31, 2024, the minimum ratio is set at 10%, and during the period between February 1, 2024, and June 30, 2024, it is set at 25%. This formula with the decrees is expected to continue until full compliance with the Regulation, with the Ministry of Agriculture having requested an extension for the transitional period until 2029.

Halloumi exports in 2022 amounted to €284.5 million, marking an 8% increase compared to 2021. The value of exports and the fact that they have been increasing after the registration show the added value of PDO emphasizes the Agriculture Minister. "PDO ensures that the product is manufactured in Cyprus and protects it from imitative products. We call on them once again to think logically and withdraw their appeal against the product," he stated to "K" newspaper. Looking at the data from the Statistical Service, it is evident that the sales of the product, especially exports, are steadily rising. For instance, in January 2022, halloumi exports reached €16.9 million, while in January this year, exports amounted to €22.7 million, indicating an increase of around 34%. Minister Petros Xenophontos emphasized that after the registration, PDO halloumi has strengthened, and the export activities of cheesemakers are constantly growing, with daily halloumi production reaching an average of about €1 million, based on statistical data.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  halloumi  |  economy  |  cheese  |  milk

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