President Nicos Anastasiades has pledged to personally intervene after sheep and goat breeders on Monday asked for the process of registering halloumi cheese as a protected designation of origin (PDO) to be expedited.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis, who was present at a meeting at the presidential palace on Monday, said the president will get in touch with the European Commission immediately.
“A letter will be sent to (EU Commission President Jean-Claude) Mr Juncker immediately by the president and he will see Mr Juncker mid-December during the European Council,” the minister said. “He will try to convince the commission there.”
According to the minister, Anastasiades assured breeders there was no question of withdrawing the bid. He also explained to them that the application was currently being delayed due to a snag with the Green Line Regulation.
Cattle breeders also expressed objections repeatedly over the type of milk used in the manufacture of the original product.
The PDO application was filed in July 2015, and the file stipulates that the ratio of goat’s and sheep’s milk, or a combination of both, needs to be more than the amount of cow’s milk.
The president “promised he will make an effort to overcome these problems and have halloumi registered as soon as possible, and I mean before the president’s term expires,” Kouyialis said.
The minister reiterated that the application was at the last stages.
“We have almost overcome all the technical obstacles, the commission has rejected all the objections filed by foreign countries and what remains at the moment is what the president said, to overcome, the problem with extending the Green Line Regulation to allow legal trade of certified halloumi by Turkish Cypriots.”
Last month, the minister said there was disagreement with the commission and the Turkish Cypriots on how they would trade their halloumi, or hellim, since the application included the entire island despite the division.
Adopted in 2004, the Green Line Regulation sets out the terms under which persons and goods can cross the dividing line.
The movement of live animals and animal products across the line is prohibited except the movement of fresh fish for commercial purposes only.
This prohibition includes productive animals and pets, either for commercial transaction, or as a pet accompanied by the owner.
The commission and the Turkish Cypriots want the regulation to open up to animal products in general, something which the government disagrees with.
Kouyialis could not say whether the issue was political.
“What we are faced with today, and I think is a problem, is that the Turkish Cypriots want the Green Line Regulation to be extended to trade halloumi not according to European directives and legislation. This cannot be accepted.”
Nicosia wants the regulation to only include halloumi and not any other animal product.
On a more practical issue, Kouyialis said he expected the quantity of sheep and goat milk to be enough to support the industry.
He said some 10m litres of milk went to the industry and this was owed to the subsidies afforded to breeders by the state.
Kouyialis said he expected between 50 and 55 new sheep and goat units to be created in the next two years, raising the animal population by some 35,000.