Halloumi exports from the north amounted to 7.5m kilos spread among ten different countries in 2017, reports from the north said on Monday.
Since the beginning of 2018, some 4.1m kilos have been exported, the reports said, adding that even though hellim, the Turkish word for halloumi, is twice as cheap in the north than the south of the island, Greek Cypriots hold the main market share abroad.
Official figures put exports of halloumi from the Republic at over 20m kilos last year, or 13.7 per cent of total exports.
The Turkish Cypriot farmers union, according to media in the north, said that hellim is exported for 17 Turkish lira per kilo (€3) while halloumi is exported for 45 Turkish lira per kilo (€8).
The main markets for Turkish Cypriot hellim are Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, USA, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Japan. The Republic exports halloumi to around 40 countries but the main market is the UK, which takes close to half the export quantity.
In statements to Kibris newspaper, the head of the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce, Candan Avunduk and the head of the livestock breeding and farmer’s union, Mustafa Naimoglulari, underlined the need for “measures” to be taken to increase the quality and the production of halloumi in the north.
Cyprus applied to the EU for protected designation of origin (PDO) to the EU for halloumi/hellim in 2014 for the entire island, upsetting Turkish Cypriot producers, who had said that the dairy product makes up 25 per cent of the north’s exports. They expressed fears that these would be affected if the cheese was registered as a PDO, without an input from the north.
The Greek Cypriot side was concerned about the product being up to EU standards and wanted to have hellim inspected by the agriculture ministry, which the Turkish Cypriot side objected to.
Following an understanding between the island’s two leaders and the EU in 2015, the European Commission announced that the international certification body Bureau Veritas would be tasked with inspecting halloumi/hellim production throughout the island and action would also be taken to facilitate Turkish Cypriot producers to export hellim via the government-controlled areas.
This was the temporary agreement that was to be implemented pending the reunification of the island, the EC had said.
The PDO application has not yet gone through. Agriculture Minister, Costas Kadis said earlier this month the government was doing its utmost to get through what has been a “particularly difficult and tough” process.