The development of protected labelling allows agricultural producers to export their products at better prices. For farmers in the Global South, whose products are still largely unrecognised on the European market, this is an important issue. EurActiv France reports.
Local products from Africa or Asia are increasingly being recognised with protected geographical indications (PGIs) – a quality label which helps them to compete on European markets, which are otherwise often inaccessible for the countries of the South.
Cambodian Kampot pepper, for example, was awarded this label a few weeks ago. This recognition of the particular quality of a product linked to a specific territory and production techniques is valid across all 28 EU member states and allows producers to export their products at prices up to ten times higher.
“Thanks to the PGI, production has really grown,” said Sarang Sok, a, Ecocert advisor at KPPA. “With the registration of the PGI, the sale price per kilo of Kampot pepper has risen from rose from $1.5 to $15” he added.
Most of this local pepper production is exported to Europe. “About 70% of the 63 tonnes that the cooperative has produced this year has been sold in Europe. Next year, we hope to increase production to 140 tonnes,” Sok said.
The great success of Kampot pepper has inspired producers in other sectors, including palm sugar. “Today palm sugar has a geographical indication in Cambodia, but we also hope to get the European PGI,” the advisor said.
The EU’s PGI database today contains more than 1,500 products, the majority of which come from Europe. French (227), Italian (282) and Spanish (189) products alone account for almost half of all PGIs.
Little recognition for Southern products
But the list contains very few products from developing countries. Apart from Cambodian Kampot pepper, only a few products from Vietnam or Thailand figure on the list, like Doi Yung coffee, as well as Veldesia coffee from the Dominican Republic.
So far, no African products have been granted a European geographical indication label. But some countries are working to change this: Tunisia with Teboursouk olive oil and Guinea with Ziama-Macenta coffee, which is already recognised with an African PGI.
“We are working with the authorities of these countries to develop national systems of recognition for geographical indications, but also with the sectors wishing to have the quality of their products recognised in foreign markets, in particular in Europe, like Kampot pepper,” explained Aurélie Ahmim-Richard, the head of PGI projects at the French Development Agency (AFD).
This work sometimes takes a long time: on top of jumping through the necessary administrative hoops, producers wishing to obtain a PGI have to show genuine improvements to their whole production chain.
“For example, in Tunisia, we realised that the storage of olive oil was problematic and should be improved,” Ahmim-Richard said.
But for the sectors concerned, the outcome is often worth the effort. “The PGI system benefits Southern countries by protecting family-run and local farms,” the programme leader said. In some parts of the world, the vast majority of jobs and people’s livelihoods rely on these small businesses.
In Africa, the development of a legislative framework of geographical indications is already particularly advanced. “Many African countries already have geographical indication recognition systems, but not all,” Ahmim-Richard said. “But Africa has one of the more advanced organisations.”
Indeed, with the exception of the European framework, shared by all 28 member states, Africa is the only continent to have begun integrating its various PGI systems via the African Intellectual Property Organisation (OAPI).
The OAPI, a group of 17 countries, is “a long way ahead of the Asian countries, for example, as a product labelled in one of the 17 member states is automatically recognised in the other 16,” the AFD expert said.
France is currently one of the only countries to support the development of geographical indications, with Switzerland.
Protected geographical indications (PGIs) link the quality and reputation of a product with a particular territory. They help to improve business opportunities, increase the incomes of local producers and better manage natural resources.
A strong presence in Europe, particularly in France, Italy and Spain, they are growing more slowly in the countries of the Global South, where large sections of the population live from family farming.