The Cypriot government is mobilising its embassies abroad to help sell a six-million-kilo stockpile of halloumi cheese outside of the EU after demand for it dropped amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commerce Minister Natasa Pilides told MPs on Tuesday that demand had crumbled over the past year due to lockdowns across Europe that shut down the hospitality sector and hobbled tourism on the holiday island.
The traditional delight is the island's biggest and most recognisable export, Pilides 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 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.
Although cheesemakers say exports are picking up, they are selling fresh products because if they unload old stock to regular clients, prices would drop.
"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," said Cyprus' Dairy Producers Association official, Andreas Andreou.
In any case, halloumi stocks produced before October 1 cannot carry the PDO brand, which is why authorities are seeking markets outside the bloc.