Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy for the this week welcomed 20 farmers, producers and local representatives from across Ireland for a discussion on how to better protect and promote local Irish produce.
Speaking from Brussels, Matt Carthy said:
“At a time when farmers have real cause for concern about the impact of trade agreements on their livelihoods, this week I was happy to facilitate a series of meetings on ways to protect their products.
"Schemes to protect geographical indications were first introduced in Europe in 1992, but do this date, the island of Ireland only has 7 registered products, 5 in the south and 3 in the north. This leaves Ireland far behind countries of similar sizes”
“Awarding a product a geographical indication has the potential to not only guarantee a farmer a better price for their product, but also to protect rural traditions, agricultural methods and unique indigenous species.
“The delegates this week met with representatives from the European Commission to learn about the application processes and criteria and were able to ask questions specific to their sectors.
"They also had meetings on the impact of trade agreements on these geographical indications and questioned the Commission and NGO representatives on how such products could be protected both on foreign markets and here against new competitors.
"Finally, they spoke with European farming representatives on the different rules and support processes available at EU level for farmers wanting to form producer groups or cooperatives for this purpose.
“Owing to the background of some of the delegates, fruitful discussions were had on the possible extension of quality schemes and geographical indications to non-agricultural products such as tweed, linen or even hurleys.
"Island products were also discussed at length, given the importance of certain products for island communities.”
“Through my work in the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs, I have often spoken about the importance of local producers in stimulating rural development and job creation. Policies that aid people like those I met today, can only help to preserve our rural areas.
“I hope that the information given this week will be useful in encouraging small groups of farmers to come together and protect their traditions. Quality schemes can offer more opportunities for small farms to protect localised farming knowledge for reasons of social, cultural and environmental sustainability.”