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The Australian dairy industry is set to challenge a European Union ruling that stops cheesemakers from outside of Cyprus from marketing their product using the name “halloumi.”
The decision that has been seven years in the making was met with approval of the EU member state of Cyprus where halloumi originated. However, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has said the decision could cost Australian cheese manufacturers tens of millions of dollars.
The organisation said that up to 56 cheese products in Australia would be affected by the EU decision that would impact on exports and result in more and unnecessary costs for the local industry and their communities.
ADIC chair, Terry Richardson told the “Sydney Morning Herald” that the EU demands were unreasonable as the origins of the cheese were not relevant.4
“Halloumi is a cheese that can be, and is, produced anywhere in the world. The origin of the cheese is irrelevant because the name is generic and associated not with the region in Cyprus, but with a certain taste, texture and functionality,” Mr Richardson said.
“Claiming there is a special knowledge that only producers in Cyprus possess is absurd and will lead to an unfair and anti-competitive outcome.”
While halloumi is Cyprus’s second-most important export, earning $385 million a year for the island nation, the cheese is also produced in other countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and several Middle Eastern nations. After a long legal battle in Europe, United Kingdom cheesemakers have called their version the “Squeaky Cheese”.
The EU has insisted for many years that Australia use the Geographical Indications (GIs) system under a pending Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA)to protect products that the EU believes possess qualities that are linked to specific regions in Europe.
Halloumi is not listed as GI product under the pending trade deal, but it may be added once the agreement comes into force.
Australian federal trade minister Dan Tehan said that the EU had not asked Australia to protect the name of the cheese as part of the negotiations.
“The government will not decide to protect GIs under the FTA unless the overall deal is in Australia’s interests and no action would be taken on any future GI requests without the government working with the Australian dairy industry first,” Mr Tehan said.
In his response to the issue, Australian Dairy Products Federation President Grant Crothers told they Sydney Morning Herald that the GI system was too restrictive, anti-competitive and had “failed to take into proper account Australia’s status as a multicultural nation and our significant European heritage.”