EU project to ensure sustainable supply of halloumi cheese
A solid partnership between European experts and Cyprus research institutions, within the AGRICYGEN project, will facilitate increased production of goat and sheep milk in Cyprus so that the demand for the country’s famous cheese can be satisfied. Recently, AGRICYGEN researchers from Cyprus had a productive and eventful study visit with colleagues from one of the advanced partners, the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh.
Halloumi is a tasty cheese that is highly valued by speciality chefs and consumers. Halloumi also makes a very important contribution to the Cypriot economy, accounting for over 15% of the total domestic exports, with the UK being their number 1 market.
Traditional halloumi is made of goat and sheep milk, however in recent years, the product that gets to the supermarket shelves generally has a large proportion of cheaper and more widely available cow’s milk. However, soon it will not be possible to market such products in the EU due to the pending Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) application to regulate the production of halloumi cheese.
The specifications from the pending PDO application stipulate that halloumi must be produced predominantly from Cypriot Sheep and Goat milk, which means that milk production from local Cypriot sheep and goat breeds will need to increase substantially to ensure the current demand for halloumi cheese is satisfied. The most efficient way to achieve this is through genetic improvement of the local goat and sheep breeds and by increasing the quality and production of local animal feed.
The Roslin Institute is part of the AGRICYGEN partnership with institutions in Cyprus, and other world leaders in animal, plant and microbial genetic and genomics research in France and Germany. The project, funded by the European Union through the WIDESPREAD programme, aims at establishing a Centre of Excellence to support livestock and feed production in Cyprus by enhancing research capacity in the area of genetics and genomics. Phase I of the project started on 1st September with the objective to write a thorough business plan for the centre of excellence to implement a genomic selection scheme to improve milk production in local sheep and goats. This long-term partnership will create the conditions for innovative research and for extensive service and training provisions, including a Cyprus-based postgraduate programme in Agricultural Genetics and Genomics.
"Our expertise in genetics and genomics combined with those in plant and microbial genetics from our colleagues, will allow the implementation of an effective genomic scheme for sustainable genetic improvement, taking into account the unique conditions of the Cypriot sheep and goat systems." Dr. Ricardo Pong-Wong, Quantitative Genetic Tools Specialist, The Roslin Institute.
Project participants: Cyprus: Agricultural Research Institute (ARI; coordinator), The Cyprus Institute (CYI), The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics , RTD Talos Limited UK: University of Edinburgh (The Roslin Institute, The Global Academy for Food Security and Agriculture) France: Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (Toulouse, Dijon) Germany: Leibniz - Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kultirplanzenforschung