Cyprus pins feta hopes on a ‘T’

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus has quietly crumbled to a Brussels ruling that it can no longer call its feta cheese by that name, but local producers say they are not willing to go soft. «There is nothing the government can do, we will have to change the feta name over the next five years,» Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis told AFP on Friday. The European Commission decided last Monday that only the Greek version of the white goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese can be called feta. «We had to do the same with Cyprus cognac and sherry. It’s up to the cheese producers to challenge the decision,» Rolandis said. All non-Greek feta producers now have five years to switch to another name. The commission rejected arguments by French and Danish producers, who claimed the term feta had become generic. Cypriot feta producers are upset. «We will not let it go like that, we believe we have every right to claim (feta) too,» said Athos Pittas, managing director of the island’s largest dairy producer, Pittas Diaries. «We are Greek and have been making this cheese on Cyprus for over a hundred years, long before the Germans, French or Danes,» said Pittas, whose company is a major exporter to the British market. Cyprus produces 800 tons of feta a year, worth some 6 million euros. Pittas said he hoped Cyprus’s close relations with Greece would prompt Athens to consider letting Cypriots go on marketing their own version of the cheese – with a slightly different spelling. «We have a case, and we look forward to the support of Greece. Cyprus feta is slightly different in the way it’s produced and we call it ‘fetta,’ with a double T,» he said. Three-quarters of the world’s feta is currently produced outside Greece, and 95 percent of the Greek cheese is consumed on the local market.