FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Geographical food labelling can ensure quality, promote rural development

Kyrgyz women in the making of traditional cheese.

Geographical indication schemes help protect food products and produce that are characteristic to specific geographic areas. Giving certain foods special labels that are linked to their place of origin can play a special role in promoting sustainable rural development, improving farm income, and widening export opportunities. Common products include fruits, dairy and meat products (such as cheese and ham), and drinks, among many others.

Two recent reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reviewed legal and institutional frameworks for geographical indications in Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, and Russian Federation. The reports also provide insight into the European quality policy tools in Croatia, Hungary, and Poland.

This is a follow-up to a two-day FAO technical consultation on the same topic, held last year, and part of FAO’s region-wide effort to improve agrifood trade and market integration.

The reports cover lessons learned from existing geographical indication (GI) systems and offer prospects for this sector, including the role of GIs in agriculture and rural development policies. They also provide recommendations for the future.

“Based on the cases reviewed, FAO recommends that decision makers get proactive and create or improve the national framework for geographical indication schemes,” said FAO policy officer Dmitry Zvyagintsev. “This would include developing a national action plan for the sector, with clear and transparent guidelines, simplifying procedures and reducing costs for farmers and producers.”
If established well, with consolidated enforcement mechanisms, labels on geographic origins can ensure quality for consumers and additional visibility and income for farmers.

Success can also require flexibility from authorities, as the preparation of some regional and traditional products may require the introduction of specific rules or derogations to allow certain traditional food production practices, while at the same time assuring the safety of the product – just as in the case of Croatia and Poland.

“Cooperation among and within countries in sharing knowledge and experience is needed to create supportive and complementary regulations and policies,” added Emilie Vandecandelaere, FAO agribusiness officer. “We advocate for technical support mechanisms for public authorities and producers in preparation to develop and manage sustainable geographical indication schemes.”

Besides the two reviews, FAO’s practical guide for promoting quality and sustainability in geographical indication systems, “Linking people, places and products,” is now available in Russian.

31 January 2019, Budapest, Hungary