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A group of cross-party MPs have published a report calling for a focus on establishing geographical protections for British foods.
The report, entitled Untapped Potential: Protected Food and Drink Name Policy in the United Kingdom, claims that the UK has missed out on opportunities to instill local pride and support local producers through its geographical indication policy.
As Alicia Kearns, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Geographically Produced Food explained, “Now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union, we have a once-in-a-generation chance to define our food and drink policy, to promote our local industries, support the best of our culinary heritage, and further create good paying jobs in the agriculture, food and drink manufacturing sectors.”
Set out in the report are 38 recommendations covering how to make GIs work for producers and build a stronger food brand at home and abroad, and the country should set itself the target of 200 registered GIs by 2030. To put this in perspective, the UK has only registered three GIs since leaving the EU in January 2021.
The benefits of Geographical Indication
Sandra Bell, marketing manager at Wensleydale Creamery, explained the advantages of being registered to Speciality Food, “Obtaining Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in December 2013 was a significant milestone in the history of our famous Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese.
“Protected Geographical Indication status recognises the unique qualities that shape our Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese and has provided us with a platform to promote its authenticity, differentiating it on-shelf, both domestically and internationally. Along with our multi-award-winning status, Geographical Indication gives our customers confidence that they are buying the original Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese.
“Through research conducted for DEFRA around PGI status, we know that consumers are interested in the story behind the products that they buy – Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese most certainly has a lengthy heritage and provenance story to tell. The research also found that consumers were keen on purchasing regional foods to support local producers and that they associate local produce with higher quality.”
In this way, GIs not only benefit the producers themselves but also fine food retailers selling provenance and heritage to conscious consumers. As Nick Passmore, owner of the Cotswold Chicken Company, explained, “We take great pride in working with British farmers, artisans and breed specialists, and are very selective in sourcing the highest quality products from some of the UK’s best independent farms.
“Our decision to partner with Gower Salt Marsh Lamb (PDO 2021) allows us to offer our customers truly unique meat; something which is genuinely exclusive to the region from which it originates.
“It’s exciting to work with a producer who is recognised with PDO status as it means we have the opportunity to offer a one-of-a-kind product; something which is exclusive and historically associated with the region from which it comes.”
Should the UK be registering more GIs?
With post-Brexit international trade struggling to recover, and inflation rising at an alarming rate, would championing unique British foods and protecting them internationally be a good move for the UK?
According to Nick, “With so many wonderful UK producers, farmers and growers investing their efforts in producing premium quality food and drink thanks to their unique locations and dedicated practices, the more products which are awarded Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) can only be a good thing in showcasing the very best of British.
“PGIs offer assurance of a product’s reputation not only locally, here in the UK – but internationally in global markets. This highlights the exceptional quality and variety of products produced here, to a worldwide audience. Products are protected against copies of the registered name, guaranteeing the true geographical origin of products to consumers – making them iconic, recognised products which are highly desirable and sought after. Improving their competitiveness and ultimately their profitability.”
In response to the report, a DEFRA spokesperson told Speciality Food, “We are committed to supporting our food producers so they can produce and sell more at home and across the world.”