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Cyprus halloumi PDO application leaves Turkish Cypriots uneasy

Cyprus halloumi PDO application leaves Turkish Cypriots uneasy

Cyprus has filed an application with the European Commission (EC) to secure protected designation of origin (PDO) status for halloumi - a move that's left Turkish Cypriot cheese makers uneasy.

Nikos Kougiali, the Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, earlier this month announced that an application had been filed with the EC to secure European Union (EU) PDO status for Cypriot cheese names, halloumi.

Halloumi is a traditional Cypriot cheese made from a mixture of goat's, sheep's, and sometimes cow's milk. The proportion of goat's and sheep's milk should be superior to cow's milk and cumulatively exceed 50%, according to the PDO application, which was acknowledged by the EC on July 17 2014. 

The PDO and protected geographical indication (PGI) schemes, which are referred to collectively as geographical indications (GIs), identify a good as originating in a particular region or locality where a "given quality, reputation or other characteristic" is attributable to its geographical origin.

If the Cypriot application is approved, only cheese makers in Cyprus will be permitted to market products in EU Member States using the term halloumi.

It would also prohibit any additional request to secure a GI for hellim, the Turkish-Cypriot name for halloumi.

The PDO application has, unsurprisingly, left halloumi and hellim makers in Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus concerned.

"Economic destruction"

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to an Athens-backed military coup.

A third of the island, which declared itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, is inhabited by Turkish Cypriots. The remaining two-thirds, EU Member State the Republic of Cyprus, is meanwhile populated by Greek Cypriots.

Given that halloumi and hellim account for around 25% - approximately US$30m (€22.3m) - of Northern Cypriot exports, the Cyprus-Turkish Chamber (CTCI) is worried that if granted the PDO will lead Turkish Cypriots "to economic destruction."

"If halloumi's registration as a PDO proceeds without the participation of the Turkish Cypriots, it will lead them to economic destruction, it will weaken their confidence in EU institutions and will inflict major damage on Cyprus peace negotiations," said Ali Çirali, chairman, KIBSO, the Cyprus Mail reported.

"We will not be able to use the name hellim, if halloumi is registered as a PDO. Hellim will have to be produced according to the registration's standards and Turkish Cypriot producers will be excluded from the process."

To prevent this, CTCI, which represents the interests of halloumi producers in Northern Cyprus, has asked to inspect cheese makers in the Turkish-controlled region on behalf of the Cypriot Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment. 

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