The EU’s decision on the protected designation of origin (PDO) status of halloumi is due on Monday, agriculture minister Costas Kadis tweeted on Friday, as cheesemakers opposed to the move have threatened to strike on April 5.
The much-debated subject, which has been on the European Commission’s agenda since 2015, is coming to a close, with spokeswoman Miriam Garcia Ferrer telling the Cyprus News Agency last week that voting would begin this Friday.
“The (PDO) proposal will incorporate a parallel decision that will allow halloumi and hellim cheese producers to cross the Green Line, provided that they produce it in full compliance with EU health and safety standards,” she added.
The decision will then pass through the Standing Committee on plants, animals, food and feed (PAFF Committee), setting the conditions on halloumi and hellim trade between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities via the Green Line.
This will also open up the possibility for cheese produced in the north to be exported to Europe by passing through government-controlled areas.
However, on Wednesday the Cyprus News Agency reported that the cheesemakers association announced its members would strike on April 5 over the decision, claiming that it does not protect halloumi but “will lead with mathematical precision to the destruction of the largest exportable agricultural product of Cyprus”.
Cheesemakers are affected by the ongoing debate on the ratio of cow’s milk to sheep and goat milk, with farmers saying for years that the original recipe, which calls for a 49:51 quota in favour of the latter, could not be met by current milk production.
“These losses will lead to the destruction of the entire dairy industry, livestock and agriculture at a huge cost to the local economy as it is estimated that the sector’s worth will shrink from €300m to €90m,” the association said.
Meanwhile, on Thursday Turkish Cypriot hellim producers gathered at the Ledra Palace crossing and read out a letter intended for the European Commission, which stated that establishing halloumi as a PDO, and allowing exports to the EU via the Green Line would be a huge opportunity.
However, they asked for a more reasonable transition period, and financial and technical assistance to upgrade their infrastructure to meet the standards required by the EU.