The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Agriculture are working together to establish better organization in conducting inspections and addressing other issues related to the production and distribution of halloumi cheese. George Papanastasiou and Petros Xenofontos have agreed that all matters concerning the product should be transferred to a single ministry, considering that halloumi is now a protected designation of origin.
The decision will not impact other commercial standards regulated through the trademark. Currently, officials are tasked with identifying the powers the Ministry of Commerce currently holds in relation to halloumi, with the aim of proposing their transfer to the Ministry of Agriculture. The proposal is expected to be submitted to the Council of Ministers by the end of 2023 and then undergo discussions in Parliament.
The implementation of the amendment to the legislation will result in several changes. The Ministry of Agriculture will assume responsibility for issuing quota orders and managing the halloumi trademark for trade in non-EU countries. Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture will oversee the halloumi protection institute, a private public law organization currently chaired by the director general of the Ministry of Commerce and vice president of the Ministry of Agriculture. Sources indicate that the Ministry of Agriculture aims to modify the legislation regarding sanctions for violations of the protected designation of origin (PDO), going beyond the product's trademark.
Currently, the legislation allows competent authorities to seize or recall products and impose penalties in case of PDO specification violations. The proposed change is to enable the imposition of immediate administrative fines without court involvement. There is also consideration for "name and shame" practices, which involve publicly identifying companies that violate product specifications to inform consumers about the authenticity of the halloumi they purchase.
This change in management will consolidate control of the halloumi market under a single body. Bureau Veritas currently conducts inspections once a year in small cheese factories and twice a year in large ones. Inspections also occur in livestock farms, cattle farms, animal feed mills, and points of sale, which can be overseen by either the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Commerce, or the Health Services. At a meeting with producer associations and KEVE, concerns were raised about inspection results in cheese factories following the Ministry of Commerce's decree on the 19% goat and sheep milk quota in halloumi. Samples from 10 cheese factories have been taken, and results are expected soon. There are also suspicions that certain catering establishments supply white grill cheese or Cypriot cheese and mislabel it as halloumi; control in this area is likely to follow.
Furthermore, illegal practices involve importing white grill cheese at low prices, repackaging it as Cypriot halloumi, and promoting it abroad. This is done without adhering to the proper regulations, as the use of the halloumi name and the CY marking is unauthorized. It is important to note that these endeavors primarily concern the production and trade of halloumi in the free areas, as the implementation of the PDO regulation in the occupied areas is limited, with only a few certified cheese factories producing and trading Halloumi/Hellim with PDO indication in the domestic market due to the suspension of acquis communautaire.
In refrigerators of supermarkets located in the occupied areas, numerous products labeled as Halloumi/Hellim continue to circulate, which do not comply with the European regulations governing the product. These substandard products are sold at prices around two euros per piece and around 7-9 euros per kilo. The Ministry of Agriculture should address the question of how much non-standard halloumi is exported from the occupied areas and to which markets.
Promotional activities for halloumi abroad, apart from inspections and trademark management, fall within the responsibility of the Ministry of Commerce, which is the competent ministry for promoting local products.