EU grants Cyprus protected trademark on halloumi cheese

Move will 'benefit all Cypriot producers, Greek and Turkish', says president

FILE - In this Wednesday Dec. 11, 2019 file photo, Aphrodite Philippou, 73, takes out cheese from a saucepan as she makes Cyprus' halloumi cheese at a farm in Kampia village near Nicosia, Cyprus. Cyprus’ agriculture minister on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 said the European Union’s decision to recognize halloumi as a Cypriot traditional product will shield the country’s top food export from an increasing number of foreign producers using the cheese’s name to muscle into a 224 million euro ($267 million) market. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, file)

Cyprus on Tuesday praised a EU decision to finally recognise halloumi cheese as a product unique to the divided Eastern Mediterranean island.

Known as halloumi in Greek and hellim in Turkish, the cheese is the island's biggest export, earning a record €250 million ($290m) last year.

The EU on Monday registered halloumi as a product of protected designation of origin, a coveted status that guarantees a product's origin and uniqueness.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades welcomed the move as "a milestone day for halloumi/hellim and our country".

"A shield of protection is now in place, significant prospects for increasing exports of our national product to the benefit of all Cypriot producers, Greek and Turkish," the leader of the mainly Greek south tweeted on Tuesday.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974 in reaction to a Greek-engineered coup.

But the decision, which defines the content of the cheese as 51 per cent goat or sheep's milk, making it more expensive, has left some unhappy.

"This is very bad for north and south producers," Turkish Cypriot hellim factory owner Mahmut Erden told AFP.

Britain is the cheese's biggest market, making up about 40 per cent of export sales.

Cyprus filed a protected designation of origin application for the cheese to the European Commission in July 2014.

Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said the EU decision protected halloumi against imitators as Cyprus fights legal trademark battles against producers in other countries.

Halloumi was expected to be formally designated in mid-April, European Commission spokeswoman Miriam Garcia Ferrer told the Cyprus News Agency.

"Following the positive votes of member states, the adoption procedure of the legal text can be launched," Ms Garcia Ferrer said.

In 2015, then European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said "halloumi/hellim cheese symbolises the shared heritage of the island of Cyprus".

"It is a tradition that has linked the communities living here for centuries," Mr Juncker said.