Friday, June 29, 2007

Say farewell to Lebanese halloum

"The (Cypriot) Agriculture Ministry said yesterday they were progressing as scheduled with their application to the European Union to register halloumi cheese under the Protected Designation of Origin scheme.

Once received by the EU, a further six-month period must elapse, when other countries have the right to appeal.

A major issue in registering halloumi under the PDO term has been an ongoing row over what percentage of each type of milk (cow, sheep and goat) should be used in the product. Since countries like Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and Denmark are now producing cheese with the indication ‘halloumi’, this has for a long time been a pressing issue for the industry.

The EU last week decided to cut subsidies on the export of dairy products to non-EU countries.

The EU Committee on Dairy Products decided to adopt the proposal in order to combat the lack of milk production.When subsidies were in place, the government would receive 22.57 euros for every 100 kilos exported to non-EU countries.

The decision has come with halloumi exports on the rise in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.

It’s also been said that Turkish Cypriot and Turkish halloumia are becoming increasingly popular in the market, as they are being subsidised by the Turkish government, meaning they are retailing for lower prices.

PROTECTED Designation of Origin covers the term used to describe foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how.

It is designed to protect the names of regional foods and ensures that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed in commerce as such. Its purpose is to protect the reputation of regional foods and eliminate the unfair competition and misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavour.

Products include the names of wines, cheeses, hams, sausages, olives, beers, and even regional breads, fruits, and vegetables.So, how do producers and processors go about registering a product name? A group of producers must define the product according to precise specifications.

The application, including the specifications, must be sent to the relevant national authority, where it will be studied first and thereafter transmitted to the European Commission. Here the application will undergo a number of control procedures. If it meets the requirements, a first publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities will inform those in the Union who are interested. If there are no objections, the European Commission publishes the protected product name in the Journal."

A small note: If Cyprus obtains the PDO for Halloumi, then the Lebanese dairy manufacturers will still be able to make Halloum, but not to call it Halloum. The same thing happenned with Greece and Feta. Feta-type cheese is still made in Denmark and elsewhere, but it cannot be sold as Feta anymore. Meanwhile in Lebanon, the PDO project funded by the Swiss government (and in which I am a consultant) is trying to survive in spite of the political deadlock, and the PDO law is still waiting to be passed.

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