Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis announced on Tuesday the government has secured €35m for the implementation of policies that will help increase the production of sheep and goat’s milk to be able to meet industry demands for the production of halloumi.
Kouyialis, who said the decision of the European Commission concerning the registration of halloumi as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product will be announced in two months, presented the scheme at the House agriculture committee.
Cheesemakers are currently having problems meeting the milk ratio standards set by the government for the production of halloumi, saying there is a shortage of sheep and goat milk, which must make up at least 20 per cent of the milk used to make the cheese.
On July 17, 2015, the European Commission received the official application of Cyprus for the registration of the names halloumi/hellim as a PDO. The file stipulates that the ratio of goat and sheep milk, or a combination of both, needs to be more than the amount of cow milk. Due to the shortage of sheep and goat milk, which amounts to around 20 per cent of the industry, the commission granted Cyprus a 10-year adjustment period.
Toward that end the government last year announced measures worth €35 million aimed at supporting sheep and goat farmers between 2016 and 2018.
“It is a 35m package which will be given for (the implementation of) a number of measures,” Kouyialis told MPs.
The strategy, he said, is based on three axes.
The first is focused on increasing animal productivity as according to studies the around 370,000 sheep and goats in farms do not reach the peak of their milk production capacity.
“A €7m package will be announced soon for this, while at the same time there is a per head of animal subsidy in place linked with milk production,” Kouyialis said. Sheep and goat farmers will be given the incentive to sell their milk to the industry in exchange for a €26 subsidy per head of animal, he said.
The second measure is to increase milk production through the increase of animals. He added that it is estimated that around 15,000 animals will be added to farms’ sheep and goat population “which will give us the possibility to produce around 4.5m litres of milk”.
The third measure concerns investments of €28m for animal husbandry.
“The aim is to increase animal population within the next four to five years by 80,000. We want the population of the productive animals in Cyprus to reach 450,000 and in addition to the support measures we will provide for the improvement of productivity.
“We are certain that we can produce those quantities necessary to support the (PDO) file and our country’s export activities,” Kouyialis said.
As regards the PDO file, Kouyialis said that the procedure is at the final stage.
“I believe that within the next two months the European Commission will have made its decision and I hope that it will be positive for Cyprus,” Kouyialis said.
MPs however expressed concerns as to the spread of the blue tongue serotype 8 disease in the island’s sheep population which can be fatal to the animals. The disease was confirmed on Monday by a UK lab that had tested samples sent to it by the veterinary service.
So far the disease affected sheep in the Nicosia and Larnaca districts, MPs said, while animal deaths are increasing and milk production is falling.