NICOSIA – A Cypriot government move to protect the island’s renowned halloumi cheese – a staple for frying, especially in the United Kingdom – has apparently backfired with farmers complaining the requirements would be too stringent.
Cyprus has since 2014 been attempting to register halloumi cheese as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) – the name of a geographical region or area recognized by official rules to produce certain foods with special characteristics related to location.
That’s similar to what Greece did to protect its famous feta cheese but Cypriot farmers say what would officially designate halloumi goes too far, said The Cyprus Mail, with the farmers associations PEK, EKA, Panagrotikos, New Agricultural Movement and Euro Agricultural Organisation claim the specifications will cut production by 50 percent.
The new requirements would say that cheese could only be designated as halloumi if it consists of 51 percent sheep and goats’ milk and 40 percent cow’s milk instead of the current standard of 20 percent sheep and goat’s milk.
With cow’s milk more plentiful on the island the producers say they wouldn’t have enough supplies of sheep and goats milk to make what would be officially designated as halloumi and that 8,000 of 13,000 workers in cheese making would lose their jobs.
Halloumi is a major export for Cyprus – bringing in around 234.8 million euros ($258.41 million) a year, which would also be cut in half if the national cheese is registered as a PDO, the British newspaper The Express reported.
In a joint statement, they also said the new policy held a large share of the European Union budget while contributing strongly and substantially to the development of the standard of living of European citizens.
They wrote: “It is for this reason that farmers in Cyprus will protest. We are calling on the EU to adhere to the regulations regarding quality standards and, after completing all the technical aspects of the dossier we submitted for PDO registration of halloumi, to sign it and make it official,” defining their reasoning.
“Unless this is done very soon, farmers in Cyprus will park their tractors outside the EU offices in Cyprus,” they warned.
Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis had blamed the lack of progress with the European Commission on political reasons, and said the government was trying to protect halloumi as a unique product of Cyprus.