Cyprus cheesemakers’ association chairman Marios Constantinou said the Agriculture Ministry has instructed producers to “abolish” goat’s and sheep’s milk halloumi on Thursday.

“What we have been told by the agriculture ministry is not to produce goat’s and sheep’s milk halloumi again – to abolish goat halloumi – in the coming months so that we can increase the percentage [of goat’s milk] in mixed halloumi,” he said.

He warned that such a move would cause some halloumi producers to close, saying “there are producers who produce only goat and sheep halloumi.”

His comments came as he claimed the agriculture ministry had called on producers to end production of goat’s and sheep’s milk halloumi, with the aim of increasing the quota of goat’s milk in mixed halloumi to 20 per cent.

The quota falls in line with the European Union’s protected designation of origin (PDO) guidelines, which state that there must be an eventual 50-50 split between cow’s milk and goat’s and sheep’s milk in halloumi.

He presented his opposition to the recommendations, saying “there is no surplus of milk, nor is there any reason to increase the quota.”

He added that halloumi producers had been “lucky” that price increases came after the war in Ukraine and the subsequent “galloping inflation” all over Europe, which meant “other cheeses also saw inflation.”

However, he said, “today, cheese prices in Europe are falling and we can’t go to our big customers abroad again and tell them about another increase.”

He also pointed out five outstanding issues which he said the ministry must work on, namely burger-shaped halloumi, lactose-free halloumi, salting in water, baking in water, and the extension of the PDO transition period.

The association wants the transition period to be extended for another five years, though this would require EU approval.

Regarding lactose-free and burger-shaped halloumi, he said “there was in principle a response to the requests we made, and they do not agree with us, and we are in consultation with the Ministry, which has promised us that they will resolve the problem in a matter of days.”

Asked what he would do if the issues he raised are not solved, he said “we are not willing to back down,” but said he would not set “imperative” deadlines.

He then went on to speak about Turkish Cypriot producers who export non-PDO halloumi to third countries, describing the matter as “a sensitive issue” and it should be stipulated that Turkish Cypriot producers which produce PDO halloumi not be allowed to produce non-PDO halloumi to export elsewhere.

He added that he “wonders who checks on Turkish Cypriot producers when they import sheep.”

The association’s Vice President Michalis Petrou agreed, saying Greek Cypriot producers “are required to produce PDO halloumi whether it is exported to the European Union or a third country”.

“This is what we ask from the Turkish Cypriot side as well,” he added.

He also claimed milk in the north is “cheaper, because they also receive subsidies from the Turkish government, and because their animal feed comes from Turkey, which is cheaper”.

Konstantinou then moved on to the “crucial role” played by halloumi in Cyprus’ economy, labelling it as a “huge export weapon” and the “white gold of Cyprus”.