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SHEEP and goat farmers yesterday spilt over 15 tons of milk outside the presidential palace, as part of their ongoing dispute with dairy manufacturers over the ratio of goat, sheep and cow’s milk used to make halloumi.

At issue is the future of halloumi as an EU-recognised Cypriot product.

 Around 100 farmers, got involved in a fracas with police who tried to prevent them from cutting off the roads and spilling the milk.

 The protest caused long traffic jams all day. By late last night the farmers were still near the palace and said they were determined to stay the night.

The farmers - who claim to have been left with tons of unused goats and sheep milk as halloumi manufacturers have refused to accept any in recent weeks - are protesting what they say is the government’s delay in offering a final solution on the milk percentages that will be used in halloumi.

The 1985 prototype states that the majority of milk used in halloumi must be goat and/or sheep milk, though farmers said this has never been followed - “under the state’s tolerance” - and that the difference has been made up with cow’s milk.

The matter reached a peak when cheese manufacturers decided to withdraw a request to the European Commission to have halloumi registered as a designated product of origin (PDO), as they said they could never live up to the current prototype, as there is simply not enough goat and sheep milk to cover the needs.

During yesterday’s protest, a delegation entered the presidential palace and met with undersecretary to President Christofias, Titos Christofides.

The farmers - who also met with Agriculture Minister Sophocles Aletraris earlier - said they left the brief meeting feeling disappointed, as they didn’t receive any promises that halloumi would be made with at least 30 per cent sheep and goat milk. But Christofides did promise them final decisions would be announced on Friday.

“The government, in its effort to justify the absurdity of the dairy manufacturers’ position that there is a lack of sheep and goat milk to satisfy the prototype needs, is omitting that the needs would be covered if they collected the excess milk we have today and paid in time for the milk they received months ago,” said the secretary of the Cyprus Sheep and Goat Farmers' Organisation, Nicos Michail. “They accused us of not producing enough milk about a month ago, and today they were refuted. This behaviour uncovers their true intentions, which are none other than exploiting the halloumi brand and the thousands of producers.”

He said the manufacturers’ decision to withdraw their PDO application was so that they could control the halloumi milk percentages.

“The minister hasn’t offered a light at the end of the tunnel up until now,” said Michail.

Source: Cyprus-Mail

By Jacqueline Agathocleous

Published on March 20, 2012

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