Cyprus Mail

UK cheese makers plan to fight halloumi PDO

By Andria Kades

WHILE Cyprus’ application to have halloumi designated as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) was met with mixed reactions at home, UK cheese makers are vowing to fight it.

According to Carina Perkins who reported the story for British subscription trade magazine The Grocer, which has not yet been published, “the UK is currently consulting on this issue, and has asked companies to formally register their intention to object to the PDO application by September.”

According to Perkins, the UK cheese makers objecting include three manufacturers and one importer.

Three of the manufacturers are Old Plaw Hatch Farm, High Weald Dairy, and Yorkshire Dama Cheese. According to their websites, all make halloumi. None could be reached for comment on Friday however. High Weald Dairy’s site says it makes its organic halloumi from 100 per cent sheep’s milk. The product won an international cheese award in 2010.

Yorkshire Dama Cheese, which produces what it calls ‘Yorkshire Halloumi’, is run by a woman, Razan Alsous, who fled the war in Syria in 2012. She told The Yorkshire Post in an interview: “Halloumi is very popular in Syria, we would usually have it for breakfast. When I came here I noticed there is not always halloumi available, sometimes it is just in the summer or in supermarkets. I did some research and discovered the UK is the second largest consumer of halloumi in Europe, but it’s not often manufactured, it’s imported.”

Since that interview, Brits have surpassed the Swedes in their consumption of halloumi. Sales of the cheese in the UK rose 35 per cent between 2011 and  2012. Sales in Tesco’s increased by 132 per cent during the same period.

In 2008 some 1.76m kilos of halloumi were exported to the UK. In 2009 the figure was 2.09m kilos. By 2010 this had risen to 2.48m kilos, which rose to 3.03m kilos in 2011 and 3.21m kilos in 2012. Today halloumi is one of the top 20 cheeses in Britain.

Perkins said as far as she understood, the UK cheese makers would be objecting to the PDO on the basis that halloumi is a generic type of cheese, rather than one that belongs to Cyprus. “Some are arguing that halloumi in fact originated in the Middle East,” Perkins told the Cyprus Mail in an email.

Cyprus’ PDO application which was published in the EU Journal in late July says: “Halloumi is considered traditional to Cyprus … it has played a very important role in the life and diet of the island’s inhabitants, both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, since ancient times and knowledge of the production process has been handed down from one generation to the next.”

Permanent Representative of Cyprus to the European Union Kornelios Korneliou had previously said he expected some countries to appeal the application but did not specify which ones. They have three months from the date it was published in the Journal to do so. Cyprus will have a further two months to provide a response.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker supports Cyprus’ application. He helped resolve the issues relating to the Turkish Cypriot producers of halloumi – which they call hellim – during a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci during his visit in July.

Several local producers are also opposed to the application that registers the product as halloumi / hellim encompassing Turkish Cypriots whose product makes up about 25 per cent of exports from the north.

The main issue for local producers is that the application outlines ”the proportion of sheep or goat’s milk or the mixture thereof must always be greater than the proportion of cow’s milk” but Greek Cypriot producers face a shortage in sheep and goats milk.

Pancyprian Organisation of Cattle Farmers leader Nicos Papakyriakou also called the decision to incorporate the word hellim a “criminal mistake that would give Turkish Cypriot producers the upper hand” because Turkish Cypriots do not face such shortages.

Following the application, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis however announced measures worth €35 million aimed at supporting sheep and goat farmers for the next three years.

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