IRELAND has only four of its foods registered as quality products within the EU and has failed to get its biggest export — beef — on the prestigious list.
Scottish beef has been included while the Chinese, Colombians and South Koreans are battling to be registered to increase their sales.
But there are only four Irish products that can carry the special label — Clare Island Salmon, Connemara Hill lamb (Uain Sléibhe Chonamara), Imokilly Regato and Timoleague Brown Pudding.
Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece have about 70% of their products whose names are protected because they are traditional specialities, or carry the name of the region where the product is uniquely produced.
Irish beef — the country exports 90% of what it produces — tried at one stage to qualify for the distinctive label, but failed.
“Irish beef has a fabulous image but we need the product to have a specific element that makes it unique to the country or region and Irish beef did not have this,” explained Francis Fay who works in the quality food area of the European Commission’s agriculture unit.
Part of the problem was that there were too many types of beef being included and he suggested that the Irish producers would have to exclude dairy cow meat for instance if they wanted to carry the label.
In contrast they had no difficulty registering Connemara Hill Lamb. “They live in a tough mountainous environment, the sheep are small, less profitable but have a particular quality unique to that region,” he said.
Mr Fay said he was surprised that more Irish food did not feature on the list. “Every town in Ireland had its own bacon brand for instance and there are lots of different cheeses,” he said.
However, getting the red or blue label is not easy and the process, although free, takes up to five years. It begins nationally with all those producing a particular product agreeing on its ingredients and how it is made and registering that first.
A similar process is then carried out in Brussels.
Products from other countries are looking to be protected on the European market and one Chinese product — a pasta — along with coffee from Colombia and 62 products from South Korea are certified.
In return, about 200 European products are being protected from counterfeiters in South Korea, ensuring their names are protected.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved