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EU quality policy regarding geographical indications and traditional specialities

Since 1992 the European Union has operated three programmes of product designations in order to promote and protect the names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs. They fall into two categories: those linked to a territory and those relating to a particular production method.

The Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) scheme covers agricultural products and foodstuffs produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical location using recognised know-how. The Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) scheme covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to a particular geographical area, in which at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place. These schemes are covered by a joint register maintained by the European Commission.

The Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) scheme, which highlights the traditional character of products, either in their composition or means of production, is covered by a separate register.

Benefits of PDO, PGI and TSG registration

Registration under the PDO and PGI schemes gives producers exclusive rights to use the registered name for their products and to use the relevant designations and EU logos on their packaging. Registration under the TSG scheme allows registered products to include the words "traditional speciality guaranteed", the abbreviation "TSG" or the associated EU logo on their packaging.  This means that consumers and the food trade can recognise products with a PDO, PGI or TSG status, and select authentic traditional products.  Furthermore, strict quality specifications apply to designated products, both in terms of ingredients and production methods.  Designation benefits suppliers by improving market recognition and helping them to obtain a premium price for quality products produced traditionally in specified places. It benefits consumers by guaranteeing the quality of raw materials and the integrity of the production process.

The PDO and PGI schemes have been a great success: almost 1,000 products have been registered and in 2007, according to a study carried out by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development, PDO and PGI agricultural products had an estimated wholesale value of €14.2 billion. However, the TSG scheme has been far less successful, with only 30 names registered since 1992.

In 2010 the European Commission adopted a "Quality Package" aimed at covering all aspects of quality and including a proposal for a new Agricultural Product Quality Schemes Regulation. The new regulation is intended to build on the success of the PDO and PGI schemes and provide a new framework for the development of "optional quality terms" to provide consumers with information they increasingly demand, such as "free range" for chickens and eggs and "first cold pressing" for olive oil. The Quality Package remains an intellectual property protection scheme, focused on names of farming products linked to a geographical area. It aims to overhaul the TSG scheme and enhance its credibility by increasing the traditional practice from 25 to 50 years before the industrialisation of agriculture and requiring that both ingredients and processing methods are traditional.

Registration procedure

First, a group of producers have to define the product according to precise specifications and secondly, an application has to be submitted.  For producers within the EU, the application has to be sent to the responsible department of their Member State, whereas for producers outside the EU, and provided that the product is recognised as a geographical indication in the country, it can be sent to the European Commission directly or via the national authority.

Impact in the Republic of Cyprus

The Ministry of Agriculture, National Resources and Environment is the responsible authority for registration of agricultural product names and foodstuffs in Cyprus. Cyprus has applied for two PGIs, for Koufeta Amygdalou Geroskipou and Loukoumi Geroskipou, and one PDO, for halloumi cheese. To date, only Loukoumi Geroskipou has been registered.

China – EU cooperation on geographical indications

Outside the EU, in China, the Chinese Vice Minister, in charge of the Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), welcomed the protection of key geographical indications in China and the EU.  Under a unique pilot project, both China and the EU gave the commitment to register agricultural quality products and regional specialities.

The experience gained in the pilot project will form the basis for future broader cooperation.  This project, which started in July 2007, aims to project the EU and China’s agricultural projects in each other’s territories.  Certainly, while the GI systems are similar, significant differences in procedures and linguistic problems had to be overcome.  Nevertheless, the joint project is a significant step towards mutual cooperation and respect.