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15 June, 2024
 
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Ministries unite to transform halloumi industry

Agriculture ministry takes the reins of halloumi

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

There is a need for order, mainly regarding the conduct of inspections but also other issues related to the production and distribution of halloumi cheese, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Agriculture are trying, with George Papanastasiou and Petros Xenofontos agreeing that the management of all issues concerning the product, should be transferred to one and only ministry. And this was deemed necessary, since halloumi is now a protected designation of origin.

The decision will not affect the other commercial standards that are channeled to the market using the trademark. Now, the officials have been assigned to identify all the powers that the Ministry of Commerce has at the moment in relation to halloumi, in order to prepare the proposal for their transfer to the Ministry of Agriculture. The goal is to submit a specific proposal to the Council of Ministers by the end of 2023, and then to take the road for discussion in Parliament. According to information from competent sources, it is a modifying bill that of course will have to receive the relevant approval from the Legal Service.

There are suspicions of importing white grill cheese, repackaging it and promoting it abroad as halloumi.

What will change
According to the same sources, with the implementation of the specific amendment to the legislation, the Ministry of Agriculture will now be responsible for issuing quota orders. In addition, it will manage the trademark of halloumi, with which the producers trade the product in countries outside the EU. The Ministry of Agriculture will also be responsible for the halloumi protection institute - a private public law organization - which is currently chaired by the general director of the Ministry of Commerce and vice president of the general director of the Ministry of Agriculture. Sources say that beyond the trademark of the product, the orientation of the Ministry of Agriculture is to change the legislation that also concerns the imposition of sanctions in cases of violation of the PDO.

At the present stage, the legislation provides that, in case someone violates the specifications of the PDO, the competent authority is given the possibility to either seize the product or recall it and then any penalties imposed to be imposed through the legislation. Now, the intention is to change this practice so that there is the possibility of imposing an administrative fine (which is imposed immediately without a court). It is also being studied and the scenario to apply the practice of "name and shame" - that is, the publicity of the companies that violate the specifications of the product, so that the consumer knows what he pays and what he gets.

The control
With the implementation of this change, the control in the market will now be done by one body. Of course, control is also carried out by Bureau Veritas with a frequency of once a year in small cheese factories and twice a year in large ones. Control is also carried out on livestock farms, cattle farms and animal feed mills. As for the points of sale, the control can be carried out either by the Ministry of Agriculture, or by the Ministry of Commerce, or by the Health Services. Before the competent authorities are also issues that had been raised at the meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture with the involved associations of producers and KEVE, such as:

- The results of the inspections in the cheese factories after the decree of the Ministry of Commerce for the quota of 19% goat and sheep milk in halloumi. So far, samples have been taken from 10 cheese factories and the result is expected within days.

- The suspicions that catering places such as taverns, restaurants, etc., supply white grill cheese or Cypriot cheese, but on their menu they call it halloumi. (It is expected that the next stage of the control will pass to the catering).

- There are suspicions that some people import white grill cheese at a very low price, repackage it and launch it as a Cypriot product, promoting it back abroad as halloumi. This is a completely illegal process, as explained by competent authorities in "K", since the word halloumi and the CY marking are used irregularly, without either one being valid.

In the occupied areas in the meantime, all the above and the effort to intensify the controls, concern the production and trade of halloumi in the free areas. In the occupied areas, the implementation of the PDO regulation is in an early and rather porous stage, with only 1-2 cheese factories having received the PDO certification and producing and trading the Halloumi / Hellim with the PDO indication in the domestic market, since there is a suspension of the application of the acquis communautaire.

In the refrigerators of the supermarkets in the occupied areas, a plethora of products bearing the name Halloumi / Hellim continue to circulate, which of course are not products that follow the provisions of the European regulation and are sold at prices around two euros per piece and around 7-9 euros per kilo. An important question that the Ministry of Agriculture should be able to answer is also how many quantities of halloumi outside the standard are exported from the occupied areas abroad and to which markets.

At the Ministry of Commerce the promotion Apart from the controls and the trademark of the product, the actions of promoting halloumi abroad through exhibitions remain a matter of the Ministry of Commerce, as the competent ministry for the promotion of local products. However, apart from the exhibitions, the Ministry of Commerce has undertaken the promotion of the product and through the website halloumi.cy. There, interested parties can learn information about the history of the product, recipes with the basic ingredient of the product as well as information about the trademarks and what the regulation provides for the PDO. The material of the page is available in four languages - English, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese - a fact that shows the intention and the goals of the Ministry of Commerce for the target markets in relation to the product.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  halloumi  |  economy  |  minister  |  government

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