The administrative board of the Cyprus Cheesemakers’ Association unanimously agreed to close all dairy farms associated with the group starting January 10

In a statement released on Friday, the association said that from January 1, its members would not be bound by the agreement signed in July 2022 among sheep and goat breeders, cattle farmers, and dairy producers due to “objective reasons beyond their control.”

Giorgos Petrou, a board member of the Cyprus Cheesemakers’ Association and owner of Petrou Bros Dairy Products, told the Cyprus Mail that dairy farms affiliated with the association will cease operations on January 10, with no fixed date for their resumption.

Cheesemakers are protesting the agriculture ministry’s directive to increase the percentage of goat’s milk used in mixed halloumi.

The proposal aligns with EU guidelines requiring a balanced split between cow’s milk and goat’s or sheep’s milk in halloumi. However, this decision threatens closure for some producers who exclusively make goat and sheep halloumi.

Petrou hinted that dairy farms affiliated with the association will remain closed until their demands will be addressed.

“This decision was not made lightly. Unfortunately, it stems from an impasse following two months of attempts to find a solution,” the statement said.

“Our dialogue with the ministries of trade and agriculture culminated in our last meeting on December 21. We made every effort to avoid a deadlock but received no response.”

The association explained that the problem began on October 20, with a decree that unilaterally set the minimum percentage of 19 per cent of goat milk in the production of halloumi cheese, contrary to the agreement,

The statement released on Friday said that the percentage is “based on erroneous calculations and adopted without consultation or consent from cheesemakers.”

“The percentage set by agriculture ministry is a ‘misjudgement’ as it applies to all dairy products, not just the production of halloumi cheese, leading to the inevitable elimination of all other goat milk products,” the statement continued.

“Over the past two months, we repeatedly attempted to return to the genuinely available percentage, around 10 per cent, with no success.”

The primary goal of the association has been and remains the preservation of exports that have made halloumi globally renowned, the utilisation of all produced milk for the benefit of all producers and the prevention of any job losses in the dairy industry.

The association has informed the agriculture ministry about their decision to close dairy farms from January 10.

Cheesemakers also sent letters to the trade ministry as well as to President Nikos Christodoulides, detailing the issues and seeking his intervention to avert a serious crisis in the industry.