Cattle farmers on Saturday threatened to dump milk at the presidential palace starting January 10 if the cheesemakers stay true to their threat to shut shop next year.

“It’s a matter of survival,” they said in an announcement.

The development comes amid an escalating spat between halloumi producers and the government over the percentage of sheep and goat milk required by law to be used in the country’s national cheese.

In October, the agriculture ministry issued a decree raising the ratio of goat and sheep milk in halloumi from 10 per cent to 19 per cent. Dairy farmers called it a disastrous move, saying there is not enough of this milk to meet these specs.

After weeks of failed negotiations, the cheesemakers association on Friday announced they would close all dairy farms in protest starting on January 10. The association represents some 90 per cent of the industry.

Cattle farmers then held a snap meeting and announced on Saturday that if the cheesemakers close shop, then starting January 10, any milk they produce will be taken to the presidential palace.

“The government will then have to take care for processing and disposing it.”

The cattle farmers said this was “a matter of survival” because with the new milk ratio, this meant less cow milk would be used.

They suggested the government had the interests of “millionaire investors” at heart on the negotiations over halloumi’s PDO (protected designation of origin), saying the breeds selected were linked to those with the big sums of money.

Effectively, the government decree is scrapping the use of cow milk in halloumi and creating more demand for goat and sheep milk producers, the announcement said.

“The production and distribution of cow’s milk cannot be based on the logic of its connection with the production of sheep and goat’s milk,” they added, noting that consumers had a choice and should be able to choose the halloumi of their liking.