The registration of” Hellim/Halloumi” as a PDO in EU for the whole island of Cyprus can be identified as a significant day for Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot producers.
Hellim/Halloumi has been produced in Cyprus by the local people for many centuries and it is one of the most relevant socioeconomic products of the island. From feed production to milk production, from manufacturing to trading, Hellim/Halloumi sector has an immense effect on rural life, culture, employment, and economic income for both communities. In the northern part of Cyprus, Hellim/Halloumi is the most exported product, where as in the southern part it is in the second place.
Due to the prevailing situation in Cyprus, the European Commission had to come up with a delicate mechanism to ensure that the PDO covers the all island. Although this mechanism is not ideal, by working closely with the Commission and our stakeholders, we should be able to ensure an impartial and independent control mechanism for both communities.
At the moment, Turkish Cypriots cannot sell Hellim/Halloumi in the EU. In order to address this issue, the European Commission has adopted, simultaneously with the PDO regulation, an implementing decision to the Green Line Regulation(GLR) that will allow Hellim meeting EU sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards in the northern part of Cyprus to cross into the EU market.
It is of the utmost importance that the PDO regulation and GLR decision have come to force at the same time. This fulfills a promise made to the Turkish Cypriot community in 2015. However, we are still a little uncertain about how the SPS controls will be made. We know that investments will be needed and it is therefore crucial that EU increase their technical and financial aid as to ensure our community meets the EU SPS standard within the year.
In the next months, it is expected that a Working Group, chaired by the European Commission, in which producers from both communities will have equal representation will be established. We look forward to be part of this mechanism as this can help to establish a dialogue, increase cooperation among producers and hopefully solve the problems that might arise in the future.
One of the other important aspect of the PDO is the issue of the mix of goat/sheep’s milk and cow’s milk. A derogation allowing a larger percentage of cow milk is in place until 2024 only. Meeting the mix percentages set out in the Specification will be one of the biggest challenges for both communities, and something that both communities should work together on. If possible, the transition period should be extended further in order to sustain the economic activities as the current goat/sheep’s milk is not enough to cover the current demand for Hellim/Halloumi.
There are many uncertainties/questions that still need to be addressed with regard to the unique solution the European Commission has found on Hellim/Halloumi. Likewise, the fact that the Commission was not able to solve other problems with trade across the Green Line is worrisome for future.
However, 13th of April 2021, can be considered a historic day for Cypriots only if both communities work together to protect their common gastronomic heritage.
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