The government reiterated on Tuesday that it would not water down the rules relating to the manufacturing and content specifications for halloumi cheese, as codified in the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) approved by the European Union.

“During today’s meeting as well, the president made it clear that full and faithful implementation of the regulation establishing halloumi as a PDO, is non-negotiable,” Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said after a broad meeting on the matter at the presidential palace chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades.

The main aim of the meeting was to discuss cow farmers’ concerns over unused cow milk as a result of the new specifications for halloumi.

Kadis said the president – who has seen the various interest groups separately – will soon be holding a meeting with all stakeholders in the dairy business.

Certain decisions would be taken at that meeting, he added, but qualified that whatever those decisions may be they would not deviate from the PDO-related regulation. Rather, they would concern procedural matters.

Queried on this, Kadis said that from now on checks on brand names would be carried out by the ministry of agriculture in association with Bureau Veritas – a French company specialising in testing, inspection and certification services.

Kadis stressed the government would like all the milk produced in Cyprus to be made use of “with all the alternative ways available, while at the same time safeguarding halloumi as a purely Cypriot product which no one can question.”

The ministry of commerce remains at the disposal of the cow farmers to help promote their products overseas.

“Wherever there is good will, we can deal with the challenges arising, and the benefits from certification [of halloumi as a PDO] are manifold,” noted Kadis.

PDO identifies products that are produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographical area, using the recognised know-how of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned.

Halloumi got PDO certification from the European Commission in October 2021. Up until then, 80 per cent cow’s milk was used and 20 per cent sheep and goat’s milk.

The PDO specifications, however, stipulate that 51 per cent of milk used would have to be sheep and goat, which cheesemakers believe will hurt their interests by reducing production and changing the taste of halloumi, making it unappealing to European consumers.