Cyprus has welcomed a European Union decision to recognise halloumi cheese as a product unique to the divided Eastern Mediterranean island.
The special status guarantees that only Cypriot-made halloumi, known as hellim in Turkish, can be marketed abroad under these names.
Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, said in a tweet that this was a “milestone day for #Halloumi/ #Hellim and our country.”
The prized cheese now has “a shield of protection,” Anastasiades added.
The designation, which was agreed by EU member states last week, will be formally adopted and published by mid-April, an EU spokeswoman told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.
“This is a historic achievement for Cyprus, crowning years of efforts,” said EU Health Commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, herself a Cypriot.
The move is also intended to promote unity on the long-divided island.
The salty cheese, which is often charred or barbecued, is the country’s top food export. Cypriot dairy farmers refer to halloumi as “white gold.”
The international market for the cheese has grown into a €224-million ($267-million) market, Cypriot Agriculture Minister, Costas Kadis, said.
Between 2017 and 2019, halloumi exports shot up 43% to 33,672 tons. The biggest halloumi importers are the UK, Sweden, Germany and Greece.