By Evie Andreou
THE AGRICULTURE ministry is the responsible authority for the inspection of halloumi cheese and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Industry (KIBSO) cannot be inspectors for production in the north, said minister Nicos Kouyialis yesterday.
Kouyialis sent out an unequivocal message to everyone objecting to the registration of halloumi as a product with protected designation of origin (PDO) and asked for the ‘unnecessary domestic disputes’ to stop. He dismissed the possibility of withdrawing the application.
“The registration of halloumi as a PDO is a matter of national importance and the government will do all in its power to protect the product from international competition,” said the minister.
However at a news conference yesterday KIBSO chairman Ali Çıralı said: “If halloumi’s registration as a PDO proceeds without the participation of the Turkish Cypriots, it will lead them to economic destruction, it will weaken their confidence in EU institutions and will inflict major damage on Cyprus peace negotiations.”
KIBSO, a non-governmental-organisation which represents halloumi producers and inspects production in the north, is asking the ministry to cooperate so that they can inspect halloumi’s production in the north on the ministry’s behalf, until a final Cyprus solution.
They worry that the dairy product’s registration as PDO will lead to economic damage for Turkish Cypriots, since halloumi constitutes 25 per cent of their overall exports.
“We will not be able to use the name hellim, if halloumi is registered as a PDO. Hellim will have to be produced according to the registration’s standards and Turkish Cypriot producers will be excluded from the process,” Çıralı said.
Commenting on the matter, Kouyialis said Turkish Cypriots should not worry because controls on halloumi production in the north would be carried out done by independent organisations.
Earlier this month Cyprus filed an application to the European Commission to grant halloumi a certificate of PDO.
The minister said that the European Commission had already started assessing the application filled by Cyprus and expects the process to be completed within six to eight months. He added that efforts were being made to assess the application as soon as possible and expressed his conviction that the certificate would be granted.
On Thursday the Pancyprian Organisation of Sheep Farmers (POP) accused cheese makers of ‘selfish’ vested interests in fighting against the PDO.
Cow farmers and cheese makers recently vowed to fight the application, claiming that if goes through it will mark the end of halloumi.
Their objection lies on the fact that the file calls for a 50 per cent sheep and goat milk content, something which is deemed impossible by cheese makers since currently there is less than five per cent available in the market.
Despite the agriculture minister’s announcement that the government would allow for a ten year transition period, where cheese makers could use cow’s milk at 80 per cent to produce halloumi, they threatened that they would file an appeal with the Supreme Court to overrule the government’s decision to submit the application for the more traditional product.
If the appeal is successful, the halloumi PDO application will have to be withdrawn.