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Warehouses stockpiled with six thousand tonnes of halloumi cheese

Cyprus' "national cheese" halloumi is recognised by the European Commission as a product of Protected Designation of Origin PDO. Source: Xinhua/George Christophorou via Getty Images

Cypriot producers of halloumi have more than six million kilos of the product stuck in warehouses, Commerce Minister Natasha Pilides said on Tuesday.

COVID-19 lockdowns in Europe crushed demand for the popular squeaky cheese from restaurants, with the island’s tourism sector also taking a big hit.

Through the foreign ministry, we have contacted all the embassies to help dispose of stocks through bilateral arrangements

Ms Pilides told parliamentarians.

While exports have taken a turn for the better as of lately, producers say this has not helped to shift the backlog due to delivering fresh batches to regular clients.

"The option of sending larger quantities to our regular customers in the EU means we would have to bring down prices drastically, leading to a devaluation of the product," Cyprus Dairy Producers Association official Andreas Andreou told the Financial Mirror newspaper.

Mr Andreou expressed concerns last month over the volume of halloumi stockpiled in warehouses, as dairy producers asked for the Ministry of Agriculture’s mediation to stop a rise in the price of milk sold by farmers.

It comes as the milk producing industry in Cyprus is reportedly facing the most hardships it has in three decades.

Any halloumi produced before October 1 does not bear the EU PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) certification, with authorities looking to engage countries outside the European Union block to channel this stock.

Despite the COVID-19 setback, the PDO designation is expected to benefit exports.

According to data released by Ms Pilides, halloumi exports for 2020 reaching a whopping 260 million euros.

British remain the biggest buyers of Cyprus’ white gold. Even amidst the pandemic between January and August 2020, halloumi exports to Britain were increased by 12 per cent compared to the same timeframe the year before.

 

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