EU geographic naming rights for halloumi cheese spark questions for New Zealand dairy.

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The New Zealand dairy industry is concerned about further EU attempts to regulate the use of cheese names.

Using the intellectual property rights scheme known as “geographical indications,” the European Commission recently allowed cheesemakers from Cyprus exclusive use of the name “halloumi” within Europe.

The decision to register halloumi matches the previous registers of cheeses such as havarti.

According to Neil Willman, president of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association, New Zealand’s cheesemaking group is concerned that the European Union is continuing to defend cheese terms that are generic and in general use around the world.

“We are concerned at Europe’s continuing campaign to restrict the use of common names in international cheesemaking, at the expense of producers outside of Europe.”

Willman said a recent decision in the European Courts that extended GIs protection to include food characteristics such as textures and colours suggested the EU had an even bigger agenda.

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“What next? If European producers have their way, we won’t be able to produce “squeaky” or “white” cheese anymore. The effect on cheese making in New Zealand would be chilling.”

Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) executive director Kimberly Crewther says an EU clawback and monopolisation of generic cheese names would limit both domestic cheese production and opportunities to further grow the value of New Zealand’s $2 billion cheese exports.

“Maintaining maximum flexibility in terms of products and markets is important to the New Zealand dairy industry. The opportunity costs of narrowing trade options are always high,” says Crewther.

In it’s Free Trade Agreement negotations with New Zealand, the EU is looking protect 2200 of its food and beverage GI’s, including well known cheeses such as feta, gruyere and gorgonzola.


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