The Minister of Agriculture is trying to find solutions that satisfy all parties on the issue of halloumi. Specifically, the coexistence of halloumi that will be manufactured based on the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) that Cyprus registered in the European Union and halloumi that will be manufactured under the trademark that some producers owned before the registration of the file is promoted.
Speaking to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture that examined the issue, the Minister of Agriculture Costas Kadis stressed, however, that in no case do they want to coexist on the same shelf with PDO halloumi and brand halloumi and to create confusion among consumers. He clarified that under the brand will be traded products that can not be included in the PDO such as halloumi light and halloumi chilli and that the marketing under the brand should be done under certain conditions. He added that the halloumi under the brand will, as he said, bear the name and characteristics of the halloumi.
He also noted that any solution should be legally valid, while stating that the case law of the Commission in other cases allowed the coexistence of a pre-existing brand and PDO, however any solution would have to go through the EU.
In Cyprus, as he said, the trademark has been registered by the halloumi institution, while if there are other cases abroad that hold the trademark, these are individual. He also stated that the market share held by these products that will be marketed under the brand is less than 10%.
At the same time, the Legal Service, which was asked about this within the Parliamentary Committee, stated that it is studying the issue of the coexistence of the PDO and the label and that the answer to this question is not easy.
Close to an agreement for changes in the halloumi file
At the same time, the Minister stated that they are in discussions with the stakeholders to forward to the European Commission changes in the halloumi file, in relation to the quota, the breeds of animals that will produce the halloumi milk, the moisture percentage, the shape and the halloumi, expressing the belief that most of the changes can be accepted by the EU.
He spoke of intensive consultations with the stakeholders on the issue in order to reach an end and start the mass production of halloumi as a PDO and said that they are close to an agreement.
The solutions, he said, should be based on some principles that include maintaining the importance of the patent, withdrawing all legal measures taken against the registration of the product as a PDO, exploiting the potential of trademarks, ensuring its disadvantage of sheep and goat farmers who are at a disadvantage, maintaining the existing clientele so that Cyprus does not lose exports, agreeing on the amendments to be promoted in Brussels and the strict implementation of the agreed solution. He added that for this purpose there are thoughts to create a supervisory mechanism to control the production of halloumi with the participation of all stakeholders.
At the same time, Mr. Kadis said that the Government wants to support all stakeholders to find a solution and could contribute, for example, to the issue of the viability of sheep and goat farmers.
Regarding the quota, he said that the solution should not be seen as a picture of today, but where we want to reach in 2024.
At the same time, he expressed the desire for a clear solution and said that there is a bright future for the traditional product of Cyprus, if everyone makes concessions, while if everyone stays in their original positions, the consequences will be very negative.
As for the support of producers and due to the increase in the price of feed, he said that everyone received support, the sheep and goat farmers in December and the rest of the farmers will receive the next period. That said, it has been allowed by the EU due to a pandemic, as the market should normally operate and the cost of growth should be shared.
Producers are asking for support
Producer groups and agricultural organizations participating in the Commission noted the need for Government support due to the great damage suffered by the pandemic and the international increase in feed prices.
The sheep and goat farmers were asked to help the Government whether they agree or not on the changes in the halloumi file and not to raise the issue of support extortionately. Disappointment was also expressed that despite the halloumi certification, production based on the standard has not yet begun.
The cow farmers also asked for support, stating that the prices of animal feed have doubled for them as well, while they were in favor of the coexistence of a brand and PDO.
Giorgos Petrou, from the Cheesemakers' Association, asked that no milk be spilled from any producer and that the export prospects for the future not be lost. He asked for the support of the cheesemakers so that they in turn could support the breeders.
Apart from the need to support producers, especially after the large increases in grain prices, agricultural organizations demanded that any agreement reached on the PDO be based on the principles and values that govern it, as well as on the laws of the EU and the Republic of Cyprus. Some organizations have expressed concern about the Minister's proposal to create two categories of halloumi at a time when the Legal Service has not yet prepared a response on the issue.
Statements of Members of Parliament
In his statements after the end of the Committee, the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, AKEL MP Giannakis Gabriel expressed concern about what the Minister said, stating that in the end we will not have PDO halloumi, because when it is on the same shelf as the halloumi brand unfortunately the stranger will not distinguish it. They also sounded the alarm about whether what the Minister told them would apply. He added that the halloumi under the brand will be at half the price of the PDO halloumi. He added that any agreement between the ministry and stakeholders should be legally enshrined and expressed concern that the Legal Service was not even able to respond on the issue. He also said that any agreement reached between the Ministry and stakeholders should be passed by Parliament in order for the new model to be legally enshrined.
He also said that the Ministry of Agriculture has no plans to support breeders and cheesemakers and said that the market will determine the framework. He expressed the view that without the support of the sectors, no PDO halloumi is produced, especially since the increase in the prices of cereals with milk remaining at the same prices have led the farmers to not be able to endure even one more day.
He appealed to the Minister to find immediate solutions so that halloumi continues to be the second export product of Cyprus as a PDO.
DISY MP Charalambos Pazaros said that the registration of the halloumi was a great achievement of the Government, when many considered the registration of the Cyprus halloumi impossible, due to third interests and other political expediencies.
Regarding the problems presented with the marketing of halloumi as a PDO, he said that the appropriate solutions will be discussed with those in charge, so that the product of the protection that is imposed can be obtained. He added that measures to support the producers of halloumi were discussed and will be processed, especially in terms of ensuring the viability of sheep and goat breeders.
"We are close to an agreement on the quota and other outstanding issues, an agreement that will benefit all involved and the local economy. "I call on everyone to show a spirit of goodwill to conclude the agreement," he said
He assured that DISY is next to the producers, while he noted that the PDO regime will bring financial benefits to the place and the producers of halloumi and will not allow any exploitation.