The government on Wednesday submitted the long delayed application to register halloumi cheese as a protected designation of origin (PDO) product in the European Union.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis said he expected a response from the European Commission within six months.
He appeared optimistic on the Commission approving the application, saying “it is almost certain.”
PDO 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 government efforts to register it as a PDO were hindered mainly due to reactions from cheese makers and the Organisation of Cattle Farmers (POCF).
Cheese makers disagreed with the ministry over the acceptable proportions of milk; it mandated a 51 per cent minimum of goat milk, which their association deemed as unrealistic as available quantities in Cyprus did not allow for such a high percentage in halloumi production.
The application stipulates that the proportion of goat and sheep milk in halloumi must be over 50 per cent.
A ten year transition period has been granted to halloumi producers to adopt the new standard.
During that period, halloumi makers will be allowed to use maximum 80 per cent cow milk for their products.
The transition period started on Wednesday.
Kouyialis also announced a series of measures, designed to help producers and animal farmers modify their businesses to conform to the new standard.
The minister said that the government plans to subsidize the modernization of existing, and creation of new animal farms, as well as the improvement of halloumi production facilities.
The subsidies will range between 40 and 60 per cent of the cost, which can be up to €800,000.
Kouyialis said this is just the first step and that more measures will be announced by the cabinet in the near future.
The application also allows producers to market their product under its Turkish name, hellim.
Asked on whether he expected reactions from POCF and the cheese makers, Kouyialis said that their protests were expected but that they should realize that this was for the best.
“Through my many contacts with EU officials and technocrats, I can assure you that there is absolutely no way, no way that an application is approved with different milk levels.”
By submitting the application, Cyprus has also placed a ban on any other country from producing a cheese named halloumi or hellim until the application is processed.