By Kyriacos Kyriacou-Nicosia
Cyprus finally filed today to the European Commission an application to grant the halloumi/hellim a certificate of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), paving the way for the commercial protection of the Cypriot traditional cheese. If the answer is positive the name halloumi/helim will be protected as no other country can trade cheese under any same or similar name. Efforts to submit such an application by the government has been failing for many years due to disagreementswith dairy producers on the ratio of goat and sheep milk. Due to this failure to protect the halloumi cheese, companies abroad such in the UK started to produce very similar product under the same trademark.
However, the Cyprus Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment Nikos Kouyialis said today that that until the Commission`s final reply, the name halloumi/hellim will be protected as no other country can trade cheese under this or any similar name while no other EU member-state can submit a competitive application for the use of halloumi as a trademark.
“It is clear that the present application fulfills all necessary preconditions,” Nikos Kouyialis told a press conference, adding that the Commission will take 14 months to grant its final approval.
Made of goat and sheep milk
Kouyialis said that according to the application, halloumi will be made of goat or sheep milk or a mixture of both, with or without cow milk with the ratio of goat and sheep milk exceeding 50%.
In a bid to overcome the difficulties facing dairy producers and to allow time for compliance by the dairy producers with the new standards, Kouyialis said he approved a ten-year transitional period allowing for the use of 20% of goat and sheep milk until its gradual increase to 50%. He also said he abolished the previous decree that established a ratio of goat and sheep milk of 23% for the period of July – November and 25% for the period of December – June.
The Minister said that until the Commission`s final reply, the name halloumi/hellim will be protected as no other country can trade cheese under this or any similar name while no other EU member-state can submit a competitive application for the use of halloumi as a trademark.
Replying to a question, Kouyialis said the advantages of granting PDO status to halloumi will be multiple, as Cyprus will be able to trade this product much better with no competition.
New dimensions in farming
“I believe that the country`s agriculture and farming will reach new dimensions and I am certain that all producers will benefit and no one stands to lose,” he added.
Furthermore, Kouyialis said his Ministry has drafted measures to facilitate farmers to adapt to the new terms, as these emerge from the establishment of halloumi as PDO.
He said the Ministry will launch an extraordinary programme for the creation of new and the modernization of older farm units, which will provide funding of 40% and up to 60%, which may reach up to €800,000.
Asked about possible reaction by cow milk producers and cheese producers to the ratio of goat and sheep milk, Kouyialis said he expects some reaction from these groups, which he believes to be unfounded as he abolished the decree setting the ratio of goat and sheep milk at 23%, while the transitional period sets the ratio to 20%.
The Minister explained that halloumi cannot be considered PDO with a ratio of goat and sheep milk lower than 50%. Halloumi has been registered as a Cypriot protected product in the US since the 1990s.