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Defeat of Cyprus and PDO halloumi | Halloumi Cheese

May 24, 2023

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled again against the appeal of Cyprus regarding the products imitating the certified PDO halloumi, effectively vindicating the imitators of the product from Bulgaria and Sweden.

Although, with the attribution of the PDO label to halloumi, the halloumi producers of Cyprus believed that the authentic product would strengthen and could expand its potential against the products of competition, it seems that such a thing is impossible.

According to the court’s decision, PDO certification alone gives halloumi the protection it needs, automatically distinguishing it from its imitators, such as Bulgarian BBQloumi and Swedish Grilloumi, which, despite their provocative names, are not certified as PDO products.

The Cypriot cheese producers, however, do not seem to be of the same mind, as already in 2013 they have established, in cooperation with the Cypriot government, the Foundation for the Protection of the Traditional Cheese of Cyprus Called “Halloumi”, with the aim of displacing from the international market competitors imitating the product –even using particularly provocative brand names–, so that halloumi would gain from this export share.

The initial appeal against the Bulgarian company was made in 2021 and is related to trademark infringement. Although it was filed with the help of the Cypriot legal services, the result was not the desired one. The foundation came back in 2022, when halloumi was already an official PDO product, but its requests were again rejected, as it was announced.

At the moment, according to statements from the Ministry of Commerce, approximately 80 appeals are pending for cases of imitators. If they are rejected, like the first one, the way for all kinds of imitators of the product will be open wide.

Despite the dissatisfaction of the producers, it seems that they finally tend to accept the new rules of the game and judge that it is no longer wise to spend time and money to deal with various imitators, stated Marios Constantinou, head of the Cyprus Cheesemakers Association.

In his opinion, Cyprus should no longer be dedicating resources to challenging such imitators. He claimed that we have a “distinctive product, which is protected by PDO certification and strict criteria, which include that the cheese must be produced in Cyprus, by producers of the island”.

As Mr Constantinou stated, if various imitators want to use names ending in -oumi, nothing can be done about it, and everyone’s efforts should be focused on strengthening halloumi as a product and brand in the international markets.

However, although halloumi has been defined through PDO certification as a product with specific characteristics, the question of the amount of goat and cow milk remains a thorny issue.

More specifically, and according to the agreement, halloumi, until 2024, can contain 10% goat and sheep milk during the low productivity season and 25% during the high productivity season, a percentage that is supposed to increase by 5% each year, to reach 50% until 2029.

However, cheesemakers continue to consider the forementioned agreement unenforceable, as there is not enough goat milk available to meet international requirements.

It is widely known that halloumi is one of the most important export products of Cyprus, along with pharmaceutical products, potatoes, cement and citrus. In specific, halloumi exports in the period 2017-2021 reached 1.34 billion. euros, while in the first nine months of 2022 they amounted to 32 thousand tons, worth 227 million euros. Therefore, it is no coincidence that halloumi is considered the “white gold” of the island.

According to market analysis sources, this revenue from halloumi exports is at risk. As halloumi will become more and more popular, due to increased exports, it will attract more and more imitators, who will claim and win a significant share of the market, as PDO certification cannot protect halloumi at brand name level, as it was expected in the first place.

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