THERE will be no need for geographic indicators in Croke Park next Sunday when Mayo and Dublin meet in the All-Ireland senior football final.
The distinctive rival colours will leave little doubt in the minds of anyone in the crowded arena and among the millions watching on television as to which county they are supporting.
Those symbols of identity also give public expression to the high quality of football, hurling, and other sports in the traditional strongholds of sport.
In a sense, they are not unlike what the European Commission is doing to protect the names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs with a unique link to a distinct geographical area across EU states.
It has protected 1,349 food names. Wines, aromatised wines, and spirits are also protected with more than 2,090 names registered.
The EU says the introduction of a geographic indicator boosts farmers’ revenues and helps to maintain the population in less favoured or remote areas by promoting the rural economy.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said it is always encouraging to see high-quality EU food getting the recognition it deserves.
“Geographic indicators add to the value of high-quality products to the benefit of European farmers and food producers,” said Mr Hogan.
“Their importance is shown by the high priority that we attach to their protection in international trade negotiations.”
Oriel Sea Salt and Oriel Sea Minerals are the latest Irish products approved by the European Commission for protected designation.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said this is great news for the producers of two special products from the bay of Port Oriel in Co Louth.
“Oriel Sea Salt and Oriel Sea Minerals join the list of recognised and protected EU food names with a unique link to a particular locality in terms of quality, characteristics and tradition,” he said.
Mr Creed said the geographical indication system provides brand protection for producers of traditional local foods and taps into strong consumer interest in local provenance, tradition and quality.
Following national consultation, two further applications had been submitted to the European Commission this year — Sneem Black Pudding and Wexford Blackcurrants.
The tradition of home-based black pudding production in the Sneem area of Co Kerry dates back to well into the early 1800s.
Each country household in the area traditionally kept at least one or two pigs and the main joints such as the legs and loins would be dry salt-cured.
Wexford blackcurrants are grown commercially and harvested in that county, where the soil is suitable for their cultivation.
Noting that the application process is rigorous, Mr Creed said his department is engaging with a number of producers with a view to progressing applications to national consultation stage.
He said there is real prospect that this engagement could result in Ireland doubling its number of protected products.
“This emphasis on quality recognition is entirely consistent with national policy for the development of the food sector and builds on Ireland’s already strong international reputation as a producer of worldclass food,” said Mr Creed.
Five other Irish food products were accorded EU geographic brand protection status over recent years — Clare Island salmon, Connemara Hill lamb, Timoleague brown pudding, Waterford blaas, and Imokilly Regato cheese.
Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream and Irish Poteen/ Irish Poitín also gained the distinction. Geographical indications are often place names that identify the products originating there and have the characteristics associated with it. Examples are champagne, Scotch whisky, and Parma ham.
However, non-geographical names can also be protected if they are linked to a particular place. For example, feta cheese is not named after a place but is so closely connected to Greece as to be identified as an inherently Hellenic product.
Last year, the Government introduced new legal measures to strengthen the legal protection of geographical indications for food products.
However, it appears Ireland has been slower than other countries to apply for the protection, said Deirdre Clune,MEP for Ireland South, last year. She urged the Department of Agriculture to lead a charge in encouraging producers to apply, taking advantage of Ireland’s name as a home of quality food.
“A geographical indication on a product, such as Parma ham and champagne, can give a product an air of exclusivity, making the brand more unique, high-end and original,” said Ms Clune. “It also prevents cheap imitation products trying to cash in on the popularity of a particular product.
“Since the Waterford blaa secured recognised status in 2013, it has gone from a local favourite to securing lucrative contracts with airlines and can now be found in such far-flung places as Abu Dhabi.”
Brussels is presently considering whether to extend geographical indications to non-food products, launching a publication consultation last July.
It has identified more than 800 products that could be suitable for such protection, including 16 from Ireland.
They include crystal from Waterford, Cavan, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Sligo, lace products from Borris, Carrickmacross, Clones, Kenmare, and Limerick, tweed from Donegal, silverware from Newbridge and even uilleann pipes and hurleys.
Ms Clune said protection to non-agricultural products at EU-level such as Cork Crystal and Limerick Lace will harmonise the laws that exist at national levels within the EU.
She said textile firms and others in France estimate the protection of non-agricultural indications could lead to a 25% rise in global demand.
“An effective EU scheme could grow brands in rural Ireland and sustain and create jobs,” she said.
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