A meeting will be held to discuss halloumi in the coming days, as the EU is expected to extend the protected designation of origin (PDO) period for another five years, Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos said on Monday.

Speaking after a House finance committee meeting on his ministry’s budget, Xenophontos said that currently his ministry is in continuous consultation with all those involved, and he added that he expects that in the next few days an agreement will be reached.

In January, the EU is expected to extend a PDO period for halloumi by five years, while the government is expected to decide on the transition period for producers to utilise more sheep and goats’ milk in the production of halloumi.

He added that in January two “serious milestones” are expected to occur: the adjudication of the appeal of one of the major halloumi producers in Cyprus before a European court and the request of the Republic of Cyprus, together with other member states for the extension of the PDO regulation for another five years.

“So, we have two important milestones and as we have agreed together with all those involved, we will come back in January to see how we proceed with halloumi as far as the transition period is concerned,” he added.

He said that it is foreseen in the legislation that during the transitional period there may be a difference in quota of sheep and goat milk usage.

Recently, he noted, on October 20 it was changed to 19 per cent from September to January.

When asked about actions to increase the production of goat and sheep milk, the minister said that two important actions have been taken: the first is to increase the productivity of animals, “and it seems that there are units that have significantly increased the productivity of animals in cooperation with the agricultural research institute”. The government has also approved more than double the number of goat and sheep farmers and breeders.

“Therefore, we expect that gradually the amount of sheep and goat milk will increase,” he said.

Speaking before the committee, Xenophontos expressed his belief that the request to the EU for the extension of PDO will be approved.

In response to questions from MPs, the minister said that they are in the process of negotiating with the finance ministry and the banking sector to find a financial tool that will help young livestock breeders and farmers to use the approval from Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation (Koap) so that they do not need any other mortgage to be able to develop their investments.

Soon, he said, they will announce the Farmer’s Card which will be combined with corporate subsidies, and banks will be able to provide working capital.