Some UK cheese makers who are fighting Cyprus’ Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in Brussels say British halloumi tastes better than that produced in Cyprus.
Britain’s Telegraph spoke with several of the cheese makers, and in an article published on Sunday they expressed their annoyance over Cyprus’ PDO applciation, which is still pending.
Mark Hardy of High Weald Dairy, who has been making halloumi for 25 years, said it is also very much a British cheese and that some 300 to 400 tonnes was produced in the UK last year.
Cyprus sends 13,000 tonnes of halloumi abroad every year but the Telegraph said the evidence that cheese is particular to the island is “pretty sketchy”.
“There is no farm, village or area in Cyprus called halloumi. Indeed, some food historians argue the etymology of the word is from the ancient Coptic ‘Hallum’ — meaning cheese. This suggests it could actually be Egyptian in origin,” the paper said, adding that though Cyprus is the biggest producer of the cheese, it is also made in large quantities not just in the UK but also in Greece, Bulgaria, Australia, Canada, Syria and New Zealand.
Hardy told the Telegraph he was not just annoyed but also that the Cyprus bid took little account of quality. The Cypriot application says producers can use not just cow’s milk, but even powdered milk, he said.
Michael Michael, who helps run a farm in Somerset, was equally upset – not least because his family (and his wife’s) are originally from Cyprus, the Telegraph said. He feels the cheese-makers on the island had forgotten about quality in the race to get a commercial advantage, it added.
He told the paper: “The whole point of PDO is that it supports traditional, quality products be it Melton Mowbray pork pies and mozzarella di Bufala Campana. The issue I have is that halloumi traditionally is made always with goat’s, or sheep’s milk, or a mixture of both. But never cow’s milk. And yet most Cypriot halloumi now has cow’s milk in it.
“It tastes different. We’ve run trials with consumers. The traditional sheep and goat halloumi – made in Britain – tastes better.”
Hardy agreed. “Most Cypriot halloumi is made from cow’s milk. 90 per cent is made from cow’s milk. It is inferior quality. It is just so industrial. We sell our halloumi to some big customers and they say ours is so much better than the imported stuff.”
The biggest worry for British cheesemakers is that if Cyprus is successful halloumi in the UK would have to be renamed, and they are concerned consumers will not realise the product in the packaging is halloumi.
Hardy, who supplies Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, joked that they would probably have to rename it “squeaky cheese”. “Names matter. New customers will look at it on the shelf and be confused,” he said.
Cyprus was expecting as many as eight objections to the PDO application.
The companies have two months to justify their objections. The agriculture minister predicted late last month that the process would be finished in around six months.
Cyprus applied to the EU for a PDO last year. On July 28 this year, the European Commission published the application to designate halloumi/hellim (Turkish) 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.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker supports Cyprus’ PDO application. He helped resolve the issues relating to the Turkish Cypriot producers of halloumi during a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci during his visit to the island in July this year.