Brussels, Belgium—The European Union’s geographical indications (GIs) and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSGs) schemes offer a wide range of benefits for stakeholders, including a fair return and competition for farmers and producers, according to the Evaluation of GIs and TSGs protected in the EU, which was published this week by the European Commission.

The evaluation is a “backwardlooking exercise”; it covers the period from May 2008 to the end of 2020. It assesses the extent to which the GI and TSG policy has achieved its objectives, and examines the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and EU added value of the GI and TSG framework.

As of January 2021, the EU was protecting almost 3,400 names of specific products as GIs or TSGs. Several GI schemes operate at EU level, including Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) in the agri-food and wine sectors.

The general objectives of a GI are to provide an intellectual property right (IPR) protection for the name of a product of which the quality/characteristics or reputation are linked to its geographical origin.

The specific objectives of protecting PDOs and PGIs for agricultural products and foodstuffs are securing a fair return for farmers and producers for the qualities and characteristics of a given product, or of its mode of production, and providing clear information on products with specific characteristics linked to geographical origin, thereby enabling consumers to make more informed purchasing choices.

As of January 2021, the EU GI register, eAmbrosia, contained 3,306 GIs and 64 TSGs. In addition, the EU has concluded 34 bilateral agreements with third countries, protecting 1,593 non- EU GIs with an additional 777 non-EU GIs under consideration. Through these agreements, EU GIs are also protected in the partner countries totaling more than 40,000 instances of EU GIs protected in non-EU countries.

During the period 2010 to 2020, the number of registered GI names increased by 27 percent, while the number of registered TSG names doubled but still represents only 2 percent of all registered product names. A breakdown of the registered names by sectors puts wines in first place with 1,616 registered names, followed by the food sector with 1,443 registered GI names and 64 TSG names.

In terms of variety of products, the most diverse is the sector of agricultural products and foodstuffs, covering 28 product categories. Altogether, 1,443 GI/TSG names are registered in this sector, including 248 cheeses.

The total sales value of GI/TSG products in 2017 was estimated at 77.15 billion euros in the EU-28 (74.76 billion euros excluding TSGs), accounting for 7 percent (6.8 percent excluding TSGs) of the total food and drink sales. “This is far from being a niche market,” the evaluation noted.

Exports of GI/TSG products to non-EU countries in 2017 were estimated at 17.03 billion euros (16.95 billion euros exluding TSGs), covering 15.5 percent (15.4 percent excluding TSGs) of EU trade of food and beverages.

In 2010-2017, sales under GI/TSG increased more rapidly than in the whole food and drink sector. This trend was observed at both EU and extra-EU levels. However, this did not apply for all GIs; the sales value of 64 percent of GIs grew over the period, while it remained stable for 3 percent and decreased for 33 percent of the GIs. Also, GI exports increased to a lesser extent than non-GI exports.

The average value premium rate for GI/TSG products in the EU-28 was estimated in 2017 at 2.07. This value premium rate indicates that the sales value of GI/TSG products was on average (weighted) 2.07 times higher than the sales value for comparable standard products without a GI/TSG label. The highest premium was for wines (2.85) and the lowest for food products (1.5). Also, lower price volatility was observed than for the non-GI sector.

Assessing Performance Of GIs

Overall, the evaluation concluded that the objectives of the EU legisiation on GIs and TSGs have been achieved. The evaluation found that the GI and TSG schemes have a positive effect on the internal market by providing a common reference for trade across the EU member countries and ensuring a consistent level of protection at the EU level.

The framework for GIs and TSGs was assessed as efficient in terms of costs and benefits for private stakeholders and public bodies. Public costs for GI/TSG management and controls are estimated as low as 0.12 percent of total sales value and the average costs for the producer groups is 0.5 percent of the sales value.

The evaluation concluded that the objectives of the GI and TSG schemes are addressing the actual needs of the various stakeholders but, due to the low awareness and understanding of the schemes in some EU member countries, such relevance is not necessarily perceived by consumers. GIs are considered a strong asset for rural territories and an important tool for promoting regional identity.

The GI and TSG schemes are in general coherent with EU trademarks, national/regional schemes, other Common Agricultural Policy instruments, and other policies.

Having a common framework for GIs and TSGs provides clear added value by ensuring homogeneity in terms of sectoral scope and level of protection. Without this framework at the EU level, such schemes might not exist in all EU member countries or could result in very divergent approaches.

The evaluation identified areas for improvement, including: Control and enforcement weaknesses were detected in the downstream stages of the value chain; Sustainability concerns have become more accentuated in recent years, but GI and TSG production does not or not systematically take them into consideration; A major factor limiting the attractiveness of GIs and TSGs is the low consumer awareness and understanding of the schemes, and logos; Producer groups play a pivotal role in managing GIs and TSGs, but the tasks they are entitled to carry out differ widely across sectors and EU member countries; Lengthy and complex procedures, both at national and EU level, are considered the main irritant and source of administrative burden.

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