Cyprus Mail

Some dairy producers cheating on halloumi formula

Halloumi has an agreed formula but not everyone is sticking to it, MP's heard

By Poly Pantelides 

SHEEP and goat farmers have renewed accusations against some cheese producers they accuse of cutting corners when using the required formula for traditional halloumi.

The head of the sheep and goat farmers’ association Evagoras Chrysanthou said some halloumi products in the market were being sold at prices below what should they should be if the correct formula was being used.

He said this could only be happening if “other substances” such as powdered milk were being used. He was making statements after a meeting of the House agriculture committee.

By law, halloumi must be manufactured using specified amounts of sheep and/or goat’s milk with a view to increasing the percentages so that it will eventually consist of mainly sheep and/or goat’s milk.

Sheep and goat farmers have previously accused manufacturers of using only cow’s milk or even powdered milk. The halloumi standard was decided only last year after often-bitter conflicts between the state, farmers and dairy manufacturers. Halloumi is estimated to bring in hundreds of millions of euros every year.

Meanwhile, the government has botched attempts to register halloumi as a product of protected designation of origin (PDO).

The PDO law is designed to protect the names of regional foods and to ensure that only products originating in that region can be traded.

Cyprus owns the trademark name for halloumi as of 2000, but not for ‘hellim’, its Turkish name. A German company filed for the Hellim trademark, catching Cyprus unawares.

In May, the court of Justice of the European Union rejected an appeal that brought to an end years of legal disputes on the matter.

Cyprus did not apply to include Turkish, one of its official languages, as an EU language as part of Cyprus’ accession negotiations. And halloumi’s trademark description referred to the cheese without specifying geographical origin or any regional characteristics.

The agriculture ministry said both the Turkish and the Greek versions of the name would be included in a PDO application to replace a previous one that was withdrawn because stakeholders disagreed on the types and ratios of milk to be used. But the matter is complicated because of its political dimensions, with Turkish Cypriot farmers concerned over their ability to trade halloumi under existing trade agreements between the two communities.

“We are back to square one,” said the head of the House agriculture committee, Yiannakis Gavriel. A PDO application was expected to be ready early next year, yet another delay which was “inexcusable,” Gavriel said.

But he could not say whether any of the accusations by the sheep and goat farmers were true.

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