After much dilly-dallying, the government seems to have finally decided that it would implement the halloumi PDO in Cyprus. On Friday the agriculture ministry, which has been presiding over this never-ending saga, sent a letter to producers asking them to withdraw non-PDO certified halloumi from all the shops, ‘within a reasonable time.’ The same letter will be sent to the supermarkets. ‘Reasonable time’ is vague enough to allow for all existing stocks to be sold, although an agriculture ministry said this meant a week or so.

The government had been under pressure, from sheep and goat farmers, who were complaining that sheep and goat milk was not being used for halloumi production, in accordance with PDO specifications. They demanded the government ensured the implementation of the PDO, which dairy producers were ignoring. There were several meetings of the interested parties at the Presidential Palace but no compromise was agreed between the two sides – producers and cattle farmers against sheep and goat farmers.

What forced the government into decisive action, was a letter received from the European Commission, informing it that Germany had reported non-PDO halloumi was being sold in its supermarkets. It had to respond within ten days, which meant it could no longer follow its ‘do nothing’ policy. Now, it can tell the Commission that it had asked for removal of the non-PDO cheese from the shelves.

What an irony, that the government which, for months, has failed to implement the PDO for halloumi, made a contribution to a case about the feta PDO at the European Court of Justice; it was so proud that it issued an announcement about this. The court ruled that Denmark could not produce a cheese under the name of ‘feta’ and export it to countries outside the EU where the PDO was not valid, as this was a violation of the EU regulation. ‘Feta’ could only be produced within the geographic boundaries of Greece.

Cyprus had argued that PDO and protected geographic indication constituted intellectual property rights that could not be violated. It never took such a hard line when dairy producers of Cyprus were labelling their cheese halloumi, without complying with the PDO specs, and exporting it to EU countries.

The government can no longer hide its head in the sand. It will have to crack down on the producers who refuse to make halloumi according to the PDO specifications, which may have been badly thought-out and will have an adverse impact on exports, but we now have to accept them. There is no turning back.