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That’s the spirit: EU agricultural sector welcomes revised rules on geographical indications

#That’s the spirit: EU agricultural sector welcomes revised rules on geographical indications

28 Mar 2024 — The EU Council formally adopted a regulation this week improving the protection of geographical indications (GIs) and other quality schemes for wine, spirits and agricultural products. The European wine and spirits industries welcome the new rules, which apply both online and offline and simplify the registration procedure for GIs, as a way to support rural economies and safeguard gastronomic heritage in a globalized market.

The main improvements to the regulation include a strengthened role for producer groups by granting them the power to manage their GIs and greater protection for GIs online through domain names and geo-blocking.

“GI wines are the cornerstone of the EU wine sector and a key asset of its international success. They represent around 70% of the total EU wines and 90% of the value of wine exports,” Dr. Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, secretary general at CEEV (Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins), tells Food Ingredients First.

“But GI wines also influence the way our system of production is organized and how our wine companies are structured. Their protection is vital for the global competitiveness of our sector — we are very satisfied with the revised rules.”

Member states can now designate producer groups as “recognized producer groups” with exclusive rights to be exercised on behalf of all producers of the product designated by a GI.

The new rules also provide greater protection of a GI name designating an ingredient when it is used in the name of a related processed food. In those cases, recognized producer groups will have to be notified, and the percentage of the ingredient will need to be indicated.

Culture consolidated
The EU spirits industry is also dependent on GIs. According to Ulrich Adam, director general at Spirits Europe, which represents 30 associations of spirits producers, there are more than 250 different EU spirits GIs, while GI spirits constitute two-thirds of EU spirits exports.Celebration with Champagne.Cheers: Wine producers welcome the revised regulation.

“The GI system is of fundamental importance for Europe’s spirits sector, protecting long-standing local traditions and guaranteeing the highest production and quality standards,” he tells Food Ingredients First.

“From an agri-food production chain perspective, GIs are a proven concept that delivers consistent and substantial value to local producing communities, including in remote and structurally disadvantaged rural areas.”

In recent years, there has been growing interest from third countries and major trading partners in GIs. For example, the EU and China signed an agreement in 2020 that protected 100 European GIs in China and 100 Chinese GIs in the EU against usurpation and imitation. The agreement has since expanded to cover an additional 350 GI names from both sides.

Moreover, Spirits Europe expects the new rules to support bottom-up sustainability initiatives in producer communities.

“GIs spirits are a best-case example of how comprehensive sustainability approaches can grow and develop organically over time in local communities that produce, enjoy and share these high-quality products,” says Adam.

“Sustainability is a way of life deeply rooted in the terroir in which fine spirits are produced — as diverse as European landscapes, climates and communities. Sustainability in the south of Spain may look different from sustainability in Germany’s Münsterland. The new rules will reinforce ambition on our shared sustainability objective, yet allow flexibility for different pathways to develop and progress locally.”

Spirits Europe has created an interactive map illustrating the huge diversity and rich culinary heritage of EU GI spirits.

GIs explained
GIs are intellectual property rights that protect product names with specific features or qualities or a specific reputation linked to their area of production. Those products are protected against copying or fraud, while the geographical system guarantees they have been manufactured in accordance with high standards in their region of origin.Polish vodka.GIs provide market protection for heritage products like Polish Vodka.

The names of agri-food products and wines are protected as Protected Designations of Origin and Protected GIs, and those of spirit drinks as GIs. Famous examples include Parmigiano Reggiano, Champagne, Kalamata olives, Polish Vodka, Queso Manchego and Gruyère.

The EU also protects Traditional Specialities Guaranteed. These are the names of agricultural products that emphasize the traditional aspects of a product without being linked to a specific geographical area, like Pizza Napoletana and Vieille Kriek.

EU policymakers say these quality schemes give producers a competitive advantage by allowing them to market their products better and increase their sales, including with the support of local producer groups.

“European negotiators, and especially the European Parliament and its rapporteur MEP Paolo de Castro, saw from the beginning the unique opportunity offered by the GI scheme revision to strengthen the protection of wine GIs while preserving its specificities,” says Sánchez Recarte.

“Happily, this vision was preserved during the negotiations.”

Next steps
The regulation will now be signed and published in the Official Journal of the EU. It will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication.

Copa-Cogeca, an organization representing EU farmers, tells us it will continue to monitor the implementation of this regulation to ensure it does not create any administrative burden and respects the specificities of sectors, in particular wine and spirits.

“We welcome that the Commission will be solely responsible for the management of the GIs — a long-standing request of the sector,” they add.

By Joshua Poole

This feature is provided by Packaging Insights’s sister website, Food Ingredients First.

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