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The European Commission is expected to reach a decision within two months concerning the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of halloumi cheese, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Nicos Kouyialis said on Tuesday, while expressing hope that the decision will be a positive one for Cyprus.

The Minister briefed today the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on the government strategy for 2016-2018, aiming mainly to raise the production levels of goat and sheep milk, in order to provide halloumi producers with the adequate quantities.

He said that a €35 mln package to support the industry would be divided among several actions. Describing the three-pronged strategy, Kouyialis noted that the aim was to increase milk production through improved productivity, through increased livestock and through investments in the industry, estimated at €28 mln. Half of this money will come from the public sector, the Minister said.

According to Kouyialis, Cyprus` sheep and goat population is estimated at 370,000 but according to studies, current production levels don`t match with the expected outcome. He also said that 15,000 animals will be added by the end of the year, and are expected to raise milk production levels at 4.5 mln liters.

“Our aim is to increase livestock within the next four or five years by around 80,000” to a total of 450,000 goats and sheep, the Minister underlined.

Replying to questions after the House Committee session, Kouyialis said the European Commission`s review of the halloumi file was in its final stages. The procedure to register halloumi cheese as PDO has been completed and all necessary documents were submitted to the European Commission by July 8, the Minister noted.

“I believe that the Commission will take its decision within the next two months and I hope that this decision will be positive for Cyprus” said Kouyialis. He said finally that the product`s registration will open new horizons for cheese makers and for the Cypriot economy, but noted that cooperation among various stakeholders was necessary.

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