Cyprus Mail

Opposition to halloumi PDO shows its importance, minister says

By Andria Kades

The fact that foreign companies have vowed to fight Cyprus’ application to have halloumi registered as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product prove the importance of the cheese, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis has said.

Kouyialis was commenting on a report in the Cyprus Mail revealing that UK halloumi producers planned to file an objection to the application. The article was first published in trade magazine, The Grocer.

Britons are the biggest consumers of halloumi outside of Cyprus and in recent years, several UK cheese makers have begun producing it themselves.

“The fact that some were alarmed, shows how right we were to submit the halloumi application because as long as it is pending, no other country can apply to register (their own product as a PDO)” Kouyialis told the Cyprus News Agency.

Countries have until October 28 to submit a formal appeal however Kouyialis has not received any information about anyone doing so as of yet. He is planning to meet with his British and other EU counterparts on September 7 in Brussels in an attempt to deter them from appealing Cyprus’ application.

Although not surprised by the move, Cyprus will have more opportunities once its halloumi receives PDO status as there will be increased demand with foreign companies no longer able to produce halloumi, he said.

British producers however have thought this through and although prefer to use the name halloumi, will probably just sell it using a different name.

“I don’t know we might even call it squeaky cheese,” one UK based halloumi producer told the Cyprus Mail on condition of anonymity.

Not very confident about how effective their move to go against Cyprus’ application will be, he said “my feeling is that you will get it because of the Cyprus problem. The EU is trying to get Cyprus to work together”.

As the UK based cheese makers are only small producers “we haven’t got much strength. We’re two, three maybe four producers and such a minute amount I don’t think will make a difference” while they also face the added obstacle of their own halloumi costing them much more to produce.

While Cypriot producers have subsidised milk, UK cheese makers do not have this advantage and have more of a struggle.

Razan Alsous, who runs Yorkshire Dama Cheese is originally from Syria and argues that Cyprus is famous in the EU for its halloumi because it is a main exporter but the product itself originated from Phoenicians which is the modern-day Middle East encompassing Syria, Lebanon and Jordan amongst others.

Although Cyprus is considered to be a part of Phoenicia, Alsous says the cheese came to the island later. Halloumi is actually a Coptic word ‘aloum’ which means cheese, she said.

Halloumi in Arabic, pronounced ‘khilum’ actually means the process of making liquid milk solid boiling it and pasteurising it. “This is the method of producing halloumi” she told the Cyprus Mail.

“I believe it should not be certified. It is a method of making cheese, not a type of product specific to a country. How could we call halloumi specific to Cyprus when it is Phoenician?”

Alsous insists she makes her product the original way and says comments from Cypriot customers are a testament to her halloumi that she makes using 100 per cent cow’s milk. “I met so many people from Cyprus that said they miss this kind of halloumi. One customer told me he knew one of the best Cypriot producers on the island who used to make the local cheese years ago but is now rare to find.”

If no country appeals by October 28 then Cyprus halloumi will have a PDO status while if there are any appeals, a committee can reject them and grant Cyprus the status anyway or the island will have to respond to the appeal.

Dr Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the UK Protected Food Names Association, told the Daily Mail he expected most British halloumi producers to fight the PDO move, warning it could grow into a European-wide row.

In the UK a number of products enjoy protected status, such as Jersey potatoes, Scotch whisky, Melton Mowbray pies, stilton cheese and Cornish pasties, the paper said..

Mark Hardy, who runs Sussex cheesemaker High Weald Dairy said it would be a big blow to his business if the Cyprus PDO was successful. He would be opposing it, he told The Grocer He also said he would continue making halloumi even under a different name if it came to that.

‘Hopefully our customers would know what it is,” he said.


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