Northern Ireland’s world-class food deserves to be recognised

Tuesday, 6 November, 2018

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says Northern Ireland’s top quality food deserves to be recognised and is in favour of the establishment of a UK Geographical Indicators (GI) scheme after the UK leaves the EU.

The comments were made after the UFU submitted its response to DEFRA’s recent consultation. Northern Ireland currently has three products with EU Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status - Comber New Potatoes; Armagh Bramley Apples; Lough Neagh Eels and one with EU Protected Designation of Origin - Lough Neagh Pollan.

UFU deputy president, David Brown said, “It is a missed opportunity if we don’t strongly market and promote, both at home and further afield, the high standard of food produced here. Protected Geographical status guarantees a product’s quality and specificity. It is a useful marketing tool, as it helps consumers recognise a product and allows them to buy it confident in the quality.

“Already, our neighbouring nations have significantly more products with protected status and they are forging ahead with food promotional activities. There is a very real chance that Northern Ireland could be left behind. Competition in world export markets is fierce and timing is everything,” said Mr Brown. 

The UFU says it supportive of the government’s plans to allow existing PGIs to be automatically protected under the proposed UK GI scheme. Also, the government’s intention to ensure that all UK PGIs registered under the EU schemes will continue to enjoy protections in the EU in the short to medium term to allow for development and implementation of the new scheme is welcome.

“Consumers consistently demand high quality, traceable food. A UK Geographical Indicator scheme is one tool we can use to ensure we are meeting consumer expectations. However, it is critically important that this scheme is part of a secure, equitable supply chain. The government has a role not only to ensure market transparency but also that timely, accurate market information is available to farmers.  The development of improved and more integrated supply chains going forward also necessitates government involvement.  Government need to ensure better and more robust transparency within the supply chain but this must not be linked to direct farmer support payments.  They also have the responsibility to avoid abusive practices which is key to ensuring producer confidence,” said Mr Brown.