Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Farmer arrested after fiery protest

Goat and sheep breeders took to the streets over Halloumi PDO file

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A 42-year-old farmer was arrested, and another two are wanted by the police, following a demonstrat­ion held by goat and sheep breeders outside the Presidenti­al Palace turned ugly.

Goat and sheep farmers protested over the handling of the Halloumi Product of Origin file (PDO), during which they set fire to hay, while a farmer driving a milk truck threatened to crash into the palace’s gates.

Following the demo, police are examining video material from the protest, and new arrest warrants may be issued.

About 300 farmers, some driving milk tankers, arrived in a convoy at the gated compound, where they spilt milk onto the tarmac and set fire to hay placed outside the main entrance.

Leaving the demo, farmers also cut off Nicosia’s main exit and entry, parking trucks at the Kalispera traffic lights.

At the Presidenti­al Palace, demonstrat­ors were allowed to hand over a memo to President Nicos Anastasiad­es via the head of the palace’s press office, Andreas Iosif.

Iosif assured farmers the government was on their side. “During the pandemic, the government has given you more than EUR 25 mln.

“More financial support will be given by the end of the month, as an additional EUR 8 mln will be handed to farmers, five of which will be going to sheep and goat farmers”.

On Thursday, Agricultur­e Minister Costas Kadis said that sheep and goat farmers’ frustratio­n is “completely justified”.

“They produce milk at the cost of EUR 1.50 and are compensate­d by the dairies with EUR 1.10”.

He said the price of milk, instead of being set by the producers, the cheesemake­rs set it.

“Some people want everything for themselves.”

Kadis said the reason why cheesemake­rs keep the milk price low is to gain leverage for their “unrealisti­c” demands for specific changes in the halloumi PDO file.

Goat and sheep farmers are protesting the handling of Halloumi’s PDO file, arguing that dairy producers are not complying with regulation­s on the production of the cheese, leaving them with a glut of milk that they cannot sell or use.

They also say that high prices for animal feed have compounded their bleak situation.

Earlier this week, it emerged that 20% of products checked randomly contained only a small amount of goat or sheep milk.

Cyprus’ PDO file submitted in 2014 said goat’s milk should by 2024 exceed cow’s milk, reaching a minimum of 51%, produced from specific Cypriot breeds of goats and sheep; this did not satisfy cheesemake­rs who fear the loss of halloumi exports.

Halloumi’s PDO status means the rubbery cheese can only be produced in Cyprus under strict criteria, preventing imitators worldwide from claiming the crown.

The cheese’s PDO status came into effect on 1 October 2021.

In the meantime, authoritie­s consented to producers selling halloumi made with 25% goat or sheep milk to 75% cow milk.

The Agricultur­e Ministry has instructed the state lab to conduct special tests to identify halloumi products made with milk powder.

Cheesemake­rs have openly expressed concern over the thorny issue of goat’s milk exceeding cow milk in the ratio by 2024.

They argue that a shortage in goat and sheep milk will make it impossible to produce halloumi in the quantities they are accustomed to.

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