Scottish scientists are helping to secure the future of halloumi in an effort to support Cyprus' greatest food export.

Researchers from the Edinburgh University are to help farmers design selective breeding programmes by investigating genetic differences linked to increased milk production.

The project aims to boost milk yields from local breeds of goats and sheep on the island so demand for the cheese can be fulfilled.

Halloumi makes an important contribution to the Cypriot economy, accounting for more than 15% of domestic exports, with the UK being the number one market.

Cyprus hopes the cheese can be granted legal recognition under EU rules.

Dr Ricardo Pong-Wong, of the university's Roslin Institute, said: "The project combines our specialism in animal genetics and genomics with expertise in plant and microbial genetics.

"It will allow implementation of an effective scheme to secure the future of halloumi that takes into account the unique conditions associated with farming Cypriot goats and sheep."

Much of the halloumi that reaches supermarket shelves currently contains a significant proportion of cow's milk, which is cheaper and more widely available.

Cyprus has applied for the cheese to be recognised with protected designation of origin (PDO) status - a European Union award designed to protect traditional, regional foods against imitation.

It would stipulate halloumi must be produced predominantly from Cypriot sheep and goat milk.

If the PDO is granted, milk production from Cypriot sheep and goat breeds will need to increase substantially to ensure current demand for halloumi cheese is satisfied.

The AGRICYGEN partnership - funded by the European Union - connects research institutions in Cyprus with world-leading experts in agricultural genetics from the UK, France and Germany.

The university's Roslin Institute is among those taking part.

A new research centre will be set up in Cyprus to increase the country's capacity for analysing animal and plant genomes.

The centre will also train early career scientists.