The designation of ‘Geographic Indication’ (GI), which was granted to Waterford’s Blaa two years ago, ought to be extended to products synonymous with a city or region, such as Waterford Crystal.
That’s the contention of Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly, who told The Munster Express that the GI scheme should be extended to promote and champion non-agricultural or artisan food products.
“I think it’s something that will happen and it has to happen,” said Mr Kelly (FG) on Thursday last.”
“A list of Irish products, including Waterford Crystal, have already been identified, that can be used in this area.
“Now it usually takes a year or two before they get everything in order and once it’s in order, then, for example, Waterford Crystal could apply for such a designation. And once that designation is in place, it would then allow such a company to market the product associated with the area, which would almost certainly generate more sales, which would, I’d hope lead to the creation of new jobs.
“Then there is the whole area of prestige which has to be taken into account, because those buying such a product like to be associated with quality, and of course GI status would protect such a product from cheap imitations, and that’s something we’ve very strong in across Europe.
“It’s worked well for the Waterford Blaa and I believe it would have a similar positive effect for Waterford Crystal. Given that this is already a worldwide-known name, it would serve to give it further protection and, in my view, serve to enhance so well-known a product. I cannot see why it would not prove beneficial, and anything that can serve to generate additional revenue and promote employment is something worth pursuing.”
Recalling the GI status granted to the Blaa, Sean Kelly said it “has increased its market opportunities, made if far more widely known and now everyone who goes to Waterford wants, first and foremost, to have a Waterford Blaa, so the location has now become as prominent in branding the product as the product itself, and that is quite significant.”
The GI status identifies goods as originating in a country, region or city/county where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. Think Champagne in France or Parma Ham in Italy, for example.
In a statement, Mr Kelly added that “such designation has only been granted to agricultural products of a specific geographical origin with certain qualities or which are made according to traditional methods may be granted EU-wide unitary GI protection”.
The former GAA President continued: “Extending this beyond agricultural products is an entirely logical step.
“This is all about the people behind the product, the sense of authenticity, the heritage, quality and personality behind the brand. Geographical Indication gives these products EU-wide recognition and helps to extend the customer reach and open up new markets, and we have seen this with the Blaa.
“This is no different from non-agricultural products – if we stay with Waterford as an example, the world famous Waterford Crystal has gone through hard times, but if it were to get geographical indication, it would be a huge boost to its products, fostering growth and recreating some of the jobs that were lost in Waterford in the process”.
“By recognising non-agricultural products for the traditions and techniques from which they are produced, we can give a new lease of life to products such as Waterford Crystal, putting additional revenue into the pockets of the producers and improving the local economies around the country.”
“This is no different from non-agricultural products – if we stay with Waterford as an example, the world famous Waterford Crystal has gone through hard times, but if it were to get geographical indication, it would be a huge boost to its products, fostering growth and recreating some of the jobs that were lost in Waterford in the process.”
Sean Kelly concluded: “By recognising non-agricultural products for the traditions and techniques from which they are produced, we can give a new lease of life to products such as Waterford Crystal, putting additional revenue into the pockets of the producers and improving the local economies around the country.”
His fellow Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune noted that since the Blass gained GI status two years ago, “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”.
She added: “In France, in certain sectors such as textile, companies estimate that the protection of non-agricultural indications could lead to an increase of up to 25 per cent in international demand.
“An effective EU scheme could grow brands in rural Ireland and sustain and create jobs. It will also have the added benefit of encouraging tourism by promoting particular areas of Ireland.”
A resolution recently passed in the European Parliament called for the European Commission to propose legislation to extend EU-wide protection of GIs to a range of well-known products including Waterford Crystal, Tipperary Crystal, Kilkenny Crystal, Kenmare Lace, Limerick Lace and Newbridge Silverware.