Cyprus Mail
Cyprus Cyprus Talks

Objections filed in halloumi bid

By Evie Andreou

The EU has received three objections to Cyprus’ application to register halloumi/hellim as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and three of four more are expected by the end of Thursday’s deadline, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday.

Kouyialis said the three expressed objections received so far had come from an organised group of halloumi producers in the UK, backed by the British government, and two from private businesses, one located in the US and one in Australia.

The deadline to object ends on Thursday, Kouyialis said, and “according to information there will be three to four more objections”.

However he is positive that the PDO would go through.

Cyprus applied to the EU for a PDO last year. On July 28, the European Commission published Cyprus’ application to designate halloumi as a PDO in the official journal of the European Union, and at the same time announced a three-month period for objections by natural or legal persons not established or resident in Cyprus.

Kouyialis said that initially companies or individuals express an interest in appealing and after the deadline ends, they have two more months to submit ‘reasoned statements of opposition’, and if their arguments are accepted by the European Commission, then Cyprus and the objecting party engage in consultations to try and reach an agreement.

The consultation period is up to three months, with the possibility of extension by up to an additional three months, the commission stipulates.

If no agreement is reached, the minister said, the Commission decides whether to register the PDO or not, taking into account the information at its disposal.

“We are very satisfied with the whole procedure so far, and I am very positive that in the end we will be granted the PDO status for halloumi,” Kouyialis said.

The strongest case is likely to be made by the British contingent and probably on the grounds that halloumi is a generic type of cheese that originated in the Middle East.

In June this year UK cheese makers – three manufacturers and one importer –  vowed to fight Cyprus’ PDO.

One, Yorkshire Dama Cheese, which produces what it calls ‘Yorkshire Halloumi’, is run by, 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.” She said she became involved in producing it when she noticed on her arrival in the UK that it was not always available due to import fluctuations so she decided to make it herself.

Brits have now 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.

Once halloumi receives PDO status, Kouyialis said, there would be increased demand as foreign companies would no longer able to produce the rubbery cheese but some UK cheese makers have said if they lose the PDO appeal they would have no other option but to come up with another name for halloumi and hope their customers still recognise it.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker supports Cyprus’ PDO 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 to the island in July this year.

 

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