Helping to protect the future for farmers
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CTA. 2005. Helping to protect the future for farmers. Spore 116. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47968
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore116.pdf
Geographical indications are an effective tool for protecting agricultural products and foods associated with a specific region. The European Union, a pioneer in this sector, has long understood its potential. ACP countries are beginning to catch on in or
Some food products no longer need any introduction. Gourmets and other quality-conscious consumers have tracked down the best fresh or processed products, wherever they may be in the world, and are ready to have them brought long distances to their tables, or to pay higher prices for them. These days, connoisseurs are familiar with the delights of gari (semolina made from cassava) from Savalou in Benin and Galmi onions from Niger; they search the shops for palm oil from Boké in Guinea, pickles from Mauritius, tea from the Kenyan highlands, Ethiopian coffee or famous rums from Barbados or Jamaica. Generally, it is the geographical environment (climate, soil, altitude, etc.) and the expertise of the producers or processors which determines the specific qualities of such products, and hence their reputations. Marketed at the local, national, regional or even international level, these products, each with their own distinctive characteristics, are sought after by traders, who sell them for a higher price than that of similar products from other locations. But buyers know that they may be duped by unscrupulous vendors, who use the famous brands to pass off poorer quality products which do not have the same origin. Such deceptive practices also seriously damage producers, whose reputation may be compromised as a result. Intellectual property rights European countries with a strong tradition of marketing local products (led by France, Italy and Spain) have long understood the need for preventing such fraudulent practices. They have put in place a whole range of measures to protect their regional products and the expertise of producers so that the latter will be assured higher revenues. The best known of these safeguards is perhaps the appellation of origin (AOC), which regulates products whose qualities are mainly determined by geographical factors. This is often the case with wines. ORIGIN Launched 2 years ago in Geneva, the Organisation for an International Geographical Indications Network (ORIGIN) was set up to defend and promote geographical indications. Its members consist of 70 producer associations from more than 30 countries on every continent. This informal network has already sprung into action on several occasions to organise the exchange of expertise needed to set up a GI and to help create partnerships. Thanks to ORIGIN, pineapple growers in Guinea Bissau will soon be working hand in hand with producers of Etivaz, the Swiss mountain cheese, which has similar organoleptic qualities , so that the African producers can learn how to protect their produce. These days, the term geographical indications (GI) is more widely used. The World Trade Organization (WTO) defines GIs as place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify the origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products . In other words, the product s qualities and reputation are linked to its place of origin. GIs have been recognised by the EU since 1992 and by the WTO since 1994. The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement classifies GIs as an intellectual property right, on a par with trademarks and copyright. These GIs are not restricted to food and agricultural products, but also cover certain handicraft products, such as carpets and fabrics. In such cases, it is the manufacturing process and the traditional knowledge that are protected. Products bearing the GI label are distinct from other brands, which may be linked to a firm rather than to a specific location. As well as the standard protection relating to food and handicraft products, the TRIPS agreement also provides for a higher level of protection for wines and spirits. The term 'Champagne' cannot be applied to just any sparkling white wine, even if the flavour is very similar: only bottles produced in the Champagne region of eastern France have the right to bear this name. So far, around 4,800 GIs have been registered by the EU, which has plans to protect producers from countries which may offer similar products at a lower price. The GI label gives significant added value to products. In France, GI products now account for 15% of total turnover in the agri-food industry and 30% of export sales. Hence the French government s steadfast refusal to allow other countries to use its famous brand names. Such concerns go some way towards explaining why it took 4 years of heated discussions and 22 rounds of negotiations to reach an accord between Europe and South Africa aimed at encouraging trade between the two. Agreement on the wines and spirits sector was the hardest to reach. South Africa was forced to stop using the terms; port and sherry to describe certain spirits. As compensation, the EU has given it 15 million in aid. European states, together with some African countries, want to strengthen the mechanism by setting up an international register for GIs, making their enforcement mandatory. But Australia, Canada, the USA and other new world wine producers would like to see a less restrictive system and talks are still continuing. No geographical indication for Africa Whatever happens, it is crucial that ACP countries gain international recognition for their own GIs. But in many cases, this distinctive label has yet to become familiar in administrative circles (in trade or agriculture ministries), let alone among rural producers and their organisations. To date, not one African product has been granted an official geographical indication. The WTO agreements give the countries of the South until 2006 to introduce suitable domestic legislation, set up procedures for registering and put forward a list of products that need protection. These procedures generally take a long time to set in place. To all intents and purposes, GIs constitute a collective users right, restricted to a clearly defined community and linked to a given territory. Unlike a trademark, a GI is not owned by anyone, nor can it be sold. In order to be accorded the GI label, several conditions must be met. The first requirement is to show that a product really is renowned, original and typical of the region; there must be organised and active producers who assume responsibility for respecting and checking the specifications of the product and for guaranteeing its traceability (see Spore 113), and national legislation must be put in place to ensure that this protective label enjoys legal recognition. Protecting a heritage Once these requirements have been satisfied and the GI has been registered, producers can reap a number of benefits. For a start, the collective mobilisation which enabled them to obtain the GI in the first place has a knock-on effect on the producers themselves, helping them to work together, to improve their production process, to sell and protect the fruits of their labour. Secondly, products labelled in this way are generally quality items that have been cultivated or manufactured according to certain specific conditions. They are usually sold at a higher price than standard products and this helps improve revenues for producers. This has been seen in Europe where a growing number of farmers are now working in this sector. In China, recognition of yellow rice wine from Shaoxing as a geographical indication has helped reduce imitations from Taiwan and Japan. Prices have risen by 20%, domestic sales have increased and exports to Japan have gone up by 14%. On a more global scale, GIs afford better protection for the agricultural, agro-foodstuff and handicraft patrimony of a region. By offering better returns for the work of producers, they reduce the rural exodus and help protect the environment. For ACP countries, establishing GIs offers a chance to improve the profitability of their products and reach beyond their local and regional markets, as well as ensuring that products are not unfairly copied by others. Some countries of the South are worried that multinational companies may try to patent some of their traditional products such as Basmati rice or Darjeeling tea, whose names have already been widely used by other producers. In Africa, Kenya is leading the field: the government has already introduced a law and announced a national register for future GIs. Seventeen local products which could benefit from the system have been identified. Producers especially those of tea and coffee and authorities have come together under the umbrella of a national committee to promote GIs. The African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI) is responsible for examining, registering and publishing the GIs of its members, so that these labels will be recognised by all 16 countries, most of them in West Africa, who belong to the organisation. Several countries, such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea Bissau, have begun working on GI initiatives. A number of programmes are also under way to help producers and countries set up GIs. The French Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) and the Institut national des appellations d'origine (INAO) the body which oversees appellations of origin in France have combined their knowledge to draw up a list of GIs in various African countries, and select the first ones to be put forward. Classy coffees Connoisseurs claim it is the perfect coffee. Blue Mountain coffee beans, which grow in the Jamaican highlands at altitudes of over 2,000 m, have become world famous. The coffee is also extremely expensive, selling at almost 40 for 500 g in both shops and on the Internet, a price that is between five and ten times higher than that of ordinary coffees. There is no question of using this name for coffees from other locations which have not been lavished with the same care. Because the name is strictly controlled, the Japanese buy 85% of all production. On an island close to the Dominican Republic, Jamao coffee has been granted a GI label to distinguish it from other coffees produced in the mountains. Thanks to this stamp of approval, the coffee is now sold directly to Italian toasters and a micro-credit system has been set up so that producers can be paid straight after harvest.On an island close to the Dominican Republic, Jamao coffee has been granted a GI label to distinguish it from other coffees produced in the mountains. Thanks to this stamp of approval, the coffee is now sold directly to Italian toasters and a micro-credit system has been set up so that producers can be paid straight after harvest. Caribbean countries, where a range of products could benefit from protection coffee, cocoa, rum, sugar, cotton, etc.), are also taking a keen interest. Some products, such as Jamaica s famous Blue Mountain coffee have already gained recognition, and a number of other brands are currently being examined. In the Pacific region, islanders traditional knowledge and medicines are particularly suitable candidates for protection. The push to develop GIs is now well under way in ACP countries, where producers are realising that they must act quickly if they are to protect their agricultural and handicraft heritage, and make the maximum profit from it.