New twists and turns emerged on Tuesday in the halloumi saga as German authorities complained to the European Commission that the cheese is being sold under the name but without its PDO label, giving the government 10 days to provide answers.
Daily Phileleftheros ran the headline that “the Germans snitched on us to the commission about halloumi” with reports indicating that the company in question is one of the most famous brands in Cyprus.
The long-running row over halloumi is primarily centred on its EU protected designation of origin (PDO) status, which took years to secure and was finally received in October but has led to the further tightening of the already tangled knot.
The reports on Tuesday prompted Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis to announce that the government now has ten days to respond to the EU as to what measures it is taking to rectify the situation.
But the clock is ticking, as the German authorities reported the incident on July 5 to the EU’s rapid alert system for food.
Kadis told the state broadcaster that the stakeholders met President Nicos Anastasiades on Monday and requested they be given until Friday to issue their proposals to clear the path forward.
He further said that the PDO regulations will immediately be enforced regardless of the stakeholders’ proposals.
But head of the house agriculture committee and Akel MP Yiannakis Gavriel said that the government is shirking its responsibilities of enforcing the PDO regulations as it is dodging clashes with “big economic interests”.
He further said that the government is seriously harming the halloumi trade by constantly coming up with excuses as to why it cannot enforce the regulations.
Kadis acknowledged that the government was already aware of the company selling halloumi without the PDO label – implying that it was not made to PDO specifications – and that it had contacted it over the issue. In turn, the company argued that it was selling the cheese under its trademark and not based on the PDO.
The minister said that the issue had been referred to the legal services which ruled that whether under PDO or under a trademark, there is only one recognised production method and that it must be adhered to.
But Kadis said that its up the stakeholders to finally come to an agreement, reasoning that the government is there to facilitate such discussions but is not the one to take the final decision.
It’s primarily a row between the cheesemakers and dairy producers (from both goats and cows). The PDO specifications 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.
Their unwillingness to do so has caused outrage from the dairy producers who say they are selling at a loss.
In May, fiery protests broke out outside the presidential palace as livestock breeders demonstrated against the handling of the halloumi PDO.