By Constantinos Psillides
A file to register halloumi as a product of protected destination of origin (PDO) will be submitted to the European Commission by the end of the month, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis said on Thursday.
PDOs protect regional foods and ensure that only products originating in a particular region can be so named. Cyprus owns the trademark name for halloumi as of 2000 but the government has yet to register it as a PDO.
Kouyialis, who appeared before the House Agriculture Committee on Thursday, said that the application will be readied within a few days and promised that within one week from the day he receives it he will send it to the EU.
“The government is committed to seeing this through. Our stance on the subject has not changed and we are determined to secure halloumi as a PDO,” Kouyialis said, admitting that there were delays in completing the file.
“The advisory committee took longer than we expected. I know I said that by April we would be ready but a committee member asked for more time”.
The Agriculture Minister went on to say that in his opinion the House session was a mistake. “We are done discussing this. We have stalled for far too long. Any opinions heard today will only serve to derail the process further. I have the utmost respect for the members of this committee but in my opinion our presence here serves nothing”.
Committee head, AKEL MP Yiannakis Gavriel, responded that the committee’s “goal is to be kept up to speed with current events. Everyone here wants the matter to be resolved as quickly as possible”.
Despite Gavriel assurances, the session quickly turned sour. DISY MP Kyriakos Hadjiyiannis accused Gavriel and AKEL MPs of “putting on a show” and selectively inviting people to gave their opinion on the subject. Representatives of farmers unions present protested Hadjiyiannis’ remarks, accusing the Kouyialis of dragging his feet and lying to them about when the file would be submitted.
Kouyialis refuted the accusations and referred the farmers unions representatives to the advisory committee.
Farmers are in conflict with the cheesemakers, who argue that the agriculture ministry’s position on acceptable milk levels in halloumi, which mandates a 51 per cent minimum of goat milk, is unacceptable. The association considers the figure “unrealistic” as there are not available milk quantities in Cyprus. The squabble between the two has delayed the submission of the file for almost two years.
On April 1, Kouyialis had said that although the 51 per cent clause is included in the file, a 10-year transition period is also provided for that allows only 20 per cent goat milk in halloumi production, with incremental arrangements to be made over this period.
By Constantinos Psillides