From Parma Ham to Pembrokeshire Earlies

17 December 2013

Article by Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Photo  from flickr by jackhynes licensed under Creative Commons

Photo from flickr by jackhynes Licensed under the Creative Commons

Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes have joined Welsh lamb, Welsh beef and Welsh wine as products of Welsh origin afforded protection under the EU Protected Food Name scheme. This is the same protection awarded to other products such as champagne and Parma ham and means that only potatoes actually grown in Pembrokeshire will be able to be marketed as such.

The protected food name scheme exists to highlight regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be traced. It gives them legal protection against imitation throughout the EU and may also have the added benefit of raising product awareness across Europe and hence increasing demand.

To be considered for protection a food or drink must be produced using local or traditional methods. It must also have characteristics that differ from those of similar products due to the geographical area in which it is produced. To be registered and granted legal protection, the product’s eligibility must be proven through an application process. During this process the proposal is:

  • developed in conjunction with the Welsh Government food division
  • subjected to a UK wide objection procedure
  • assessed by Defra (the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
  • scrutinised by the European Commission (EC)
  • subjected to an EU wide objection procedure

The scheme allows the award of three different marks detailed below:

  • Protected Designation of Origin (PDO): This applies to products which are produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area, and with features and characteristics which must be due to the geographical area (eg Cornish Clotted Cream: protected for its “specific quality and reputation which is widely recognised as being attributable to the County of Cornwall”. This includes the Cornish temperate climate contributing to the highest butterfat milk content in England.)
  • Protected Geographical Indication (PGI): This applies to products which must be produced or processed or prepared within the geographical area and have a reputation, features or certain qualities attributable to that area (eg Pembrokeshire Early Potatoes having characteristics including “a soft skin and distinctive strong earthy nutty flavour and aroma” that arise from the mild climate and soil conditions present in Pembrokeshire)
  • Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG): This applies to products which are traditional or have customary names and have a set of features which distinguish them from other similar products. These features are not due to the geographical area the product is produced. (eg Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork which has unique qualities – eg physical and chemical characteristics – from the breed of pig and traditional farming techniques used)

Pembrokeshire early potatoes have been awarded PGI status after it was applied for by Puffin Produce, a company that evolved from the Pembrokeshire Potato Marketing Group and is majority owned by the growers it represents. Welsh lamb and beef also both hold PGI status with Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) acting as the body to maintain the integrity of the labelling as well as promoting the designation. Several Welsh wines hold either PGI or PDO status with the UK Vineyards Association sponsoring the schemes.

Other Welsh products in the pipeline for protected status are:

  • Anglesey Sea Salt – currently undergoing the EU wide objection phase
  • West Wales Coracle Caught Salmon and West Wales Coracle Caught Sewin – being assessed by the EC
  • Welsh Cider, Welsh Perry, Conwy Mussels, Carmarthen Ham and Welsh Laverbread – at the national objection phase
  • Cambrian Lamb, Denbigh Plum, Welsh Butter and Welsh Caerphilly – at the initial assessment stage

The Welsh Government has agreed to the continued support and development of these and all Protected Food Names activity in Wales.