The European Union scheme of geographical indications (GI) protects the names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs where a strong link exists between the product’s characteristics and a defined geographical area.

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney recently outlined why ‘Irish beef’ as yet has not been characterised in this way.

According to the Minister, in the case of a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) the product must be produced or processed or prepared in the geographical area and a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics must be attributable to that entire area.

He said a previous application for Irish beef was withdrawn, as the European Commission did not accept that there were exceptional circumstances to justify using the name of a Member State.

The Commission also expressed reservations about a ‘Northern Ireland Beef’ PGI application, he said.

While EU regulations now permit the use of a Member State’s name, it must be shown that the product is characterised throughout the geographical area by the same qualities, geographical and human factors, the Minister said.

“Producer bodies and agencies have from time to time explored a possible joint application but have not reached a shared position.

“If a consensus develops on applying for an all island ‘Irish Beef’ PGI, my Department and its agencies will work with producer bodies and our counterparts on the matter.”

However, he said there is a significant difficulty in establishing a case for a Geographical Indicator where, as in the case of beef, labelling rules already require the declaration of the Member State of origin.

He said applications are developed by producer groups and are submitted by Member States who may agree on submission of a joint application by one or both Member States.

He added that there is no particular cost except where research is required to establish and prove that a product has unique qualities, which are linked to the defined geographical area and that all product in that area shares those qualities.