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New Zealand cheesemakers upset over halloumi PDO

a cook grills halloumi in a restaurant in nicosia
Photo: Reuters
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New Zealand cheesemakers are upset over moves by the European Union to grant exclusive use of the term halloumi to the Cypriot producers, NewstalkZB reported on Thursday.

Earlier this month, the European Commission said it had officially registered halloumi as a protected designation of origin (PDO) so that only halloumi produced in Cyprus and according to the product specification can use the registered name.

This has caused concern among producers in New Zealand.

Neil Willman, president of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, said New Zealand produced halloumi is popular with consumers there and a promising export.

“We are concerned at Europe’s continuing campaign to restrict the use of common names in international cheesemaking, at the expense of producers outside of Europe,” Willman said.

He said the country’s cheesemaking community was concerned the EU was continuing to protect cheese terms that are generic and in common use around the world.

“This erodes the heritage and evolution of food production in places like New Zealand where cheeses such as feta, gruyere, havarti and halloumi are commonly consumed and considered generic,” Willman said.

The development with halloumi follows quickly behind the recent registrations of cheeses like havarti, despite significant global production outside of the EU.

According to NewstalkZB, the EU is requesting changes to New Zealand’s regulatory settings to protect geographical indications through the ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement between the bloc and New Zealand.

The EU has requested protection under the regime for 2,200 food, wines and spirits names including well-known cheeses such as feta, gruyere and gorgonzola and is seeking provision for additional terms to be protected in the future.

According to the executive director of the Dairy Companies Association of NZ (DCANZ) Kimberly Crewther this would limit New Zealand’s domestic cheese production and export opportunities particularly to cheese markets such as Asia which are rapidly evolving and influenced by food fashion.

Similar concerns were voiced earlier this month by the Australian dairy industry which claimed it would sustain millions of dollars in losses. Australian Dairy Industry Council Chair Terry Richardson said the EU had already brought up issues about various cheese names with Australian farmers.

“Now they have opened up the possibility of adding to that list once the agreement is finalised and it is simply going too far,” Richardson was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. The report said Australia is in negotiations with the EU over a free trade agreement that would set out rules for streamlining trade between the regions.

The EU is Australia’s fourth-biggest trading partner. “We need to prevent this FTA from allowing the EU to take over our cheese names,” Richardson said.

Richardson argued that halloumi referred to a type of cheese and not one that is unique to a region. “The origin of the cheese is irrelevant because the name is generic and associated not with the region in Cyprus, but with a certain taste, texture, and functionality,” he said.

 

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