By Angelos Anastasiou
THE Association of Cyprus Cheesemakers has accused the government of failing to act timely and decisively in protecting the trademark of halloumi cheese against a Greek company’s application to register it for commercial use, risking disastrous effects to the €75 million-a-year export industry.
Cyprus owns the trademark name for halloumi as of 2000, but in December 2013 Greek cheesemaker Vermion was announced to have applied for the right to call one of its products ‘halloumi’, allowing a three-month window for any objections to be raised.
The window expired in mid-March, but the only objection was filed by the cattle-farmers’ association, while the commerce ministry – legal owner of the trademark – took no action.
“Although our association had provided the competent authorities with the product in question, the ministry failed to act timely to stop such incidents,” the statement said.
“Instead, their action has been limited to filing charges against Cypriot halloumi producers and forbidding them from entering halloumi products in international exhibitions.”
As the sole legal owner of the halloumi trademark, the commerce ministry was the only appropriate body to file an objection to Vermion’s application, the cheesemakers argued.
“Our association unfortunately owns no trademarks, and as a result has no legal right to challenge anyone from trading products under the ‘halloumi’ brand”, the statement said.
The cheesemakers’ association predicted very dire consequences as a result of the government’s inaction, including a dramatic decrease in halloumi exports in excess of 50 per cent, a sharp increase in unemployment, and significant price hikes in locally-produced halloumi.
The statement also protested the agriculture ministry’s position with regard to the acceptable milk proportions in halloumi production, which mandates a 51 percent minimum of goat milk. The association deemed the figure “unrealistic” as available milk quantities in the Cyprus market do not allow for the use of such a high percentage of goat milk in halloumi production.
“Our association has submitted studies determining achievable proportions, based on real figures and the availability of milk,” the statement said.
“Our position is based on our many years of experience, blends the positions of other stakeholders (cattle and goat farmers), and offers a fair solution without compromising the country’s economy,” it concludes.
Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.