Following a fifteen-year steady increase in world demand for Halloumi, export growth declined 2020, especially in the final quarter of the year, as restaurant closures across Europe stifled consumption of the Cypriot cheese.
Demand has been steadily growing at 20-25 per cent annually, while 2020 saw growth of just 10 per cent.
Restrictions across the continent have resulted in multiple cancelled orders and undelivered quantities, with the overall decrease in demand resulting in 7,000 tons of stock undelivered. That’s 20 per cent of the total 35,000 tons that are exported every year. For the immediate future, exports are expected to remain at the same levels as 2020.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Cheesemakers’ Association President George Petrou explained that in the previous lockdown in March, demand had not been as adversely affected, as a rise in supermarket sales helped cover the losses that resulted from widespread restaurant closures.
To compound matters further, orders for increased quantities of cow’s milk were made based off of last year’s forecast, meaning cheesemakers are bound in contract to quantities of cow’s milk which are expected to remain unconsumed. This is despite halloumi production now requiring less cow’s milk in light of the Ministry of Trade’s decision in January to increase the quota of goat’s milk to be used in halloumi from 20 per cent to 25 per cent.
At the same time, Petrou expressed concern on trade developments after Brexit. As things stand, EU rules will prohibit halloumi producers living in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus from exporting to the UK. However, unlike the Republic of Cyprus, which is a part of the EU customs union, Turkish occupied areas are able to negotiate independently with the UK, and Petrou fears this could lead to a deal for the UK to purchase cheaper halloumi from the Turkish Cypriots who are not obliged to follow the same rules and controls.
These worries were exacerbated by Thursday’s’ meeting between Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, in which it is reported the issue of direct trade was discussed.