Halloumi Heaven: COVID-19 causes 6-million-kilo stockpile of famed Cypriot cheese

Halloumi Haloumi

COVID-19 has caused a six-million-kilo stockpile of Cyprus' prized white halloumi cheese as demand home and abroad has been crushed.

Commerce Minister Natas Pilides told lawmakers on Tuesday that producers had over six million kilos (13 million pounds) of the unsold famous cheese in deep storage, France 24 reported.

Due to COVID-19 lockdowns across Europe, that shut down the hospitality sector and restricted tourism to the Mediterranean holiday island, demand for the cheese was diminished.

The Cypriot government is mobilising its embassies abroad to help shift the backlog of halloumi –– the island’s biggest and most recognisable export -- to other markets, the minister said.

"Through the foreign ministry, we have contacted all the embassies to help dispose of stocks through bilateral arrangements," she said.

In April, the European Union registered halloumi as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) after a seven-year campaign.

Although cheesemakers say exports are picking up, they are selling fresh products because if they unload old stock to regular clients, prices would slump.

"The option of sending larger quantities to our regular customers in the EU means we would have to bring down prices drastically, leading to a devaluation of the product," Cyprus Dairy Producers Association official Andreas Andreou told the Financial Mirror newspaper.

Halloumi record 260 million euros ($290 million) in 2020, with exports of 40,000 tonnes.

That was a huge jump from 2013 when halloumi exports generated less than 76 million euros.

Britain accounts for 50 percent of export sales, with Sweden coming in second place.

Cyprus filed a PDO application to the European Commission back in July 2014 for the cheese made predominantly from sheep and/or goat's milk.

READ MORE: Halloumi bread recipe.