Local News from Sri Lanka: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Primary Industries and Social Empowerment have launched a project aimed at developing a national system for geographical indications (GIs).GIs help consumers recognize foods and other items originating in a specific geographical location with unique characteristics, qualities or reputation.
Champagne from France’s Champagne region, Kampot pepper from Kampot, Cambodia, and Pinggu peaches from the Pinggu district near Beijing, China are well-known GIs.
Asia is the most dynamic GI development region in the world, only after Europe. “According to Eva Gálvez, FAO’s agri-business officer for Asia and the Pacific, Asian countries have reported well over 10 000 GI items, primarily from the meat and agricultural sectors. She added, “As the food industry is moving towards globalization, consumers are increasingly willing to pay for quality food products with some unique features that distinguish them from the pack. For example, the Doi Chaang coffee is not your regular cup of coffee, but an Arabica blend with an exquisite flavor and aroma that is carefully picked by women wearing traditional clothes in northern Thailand’s mist-covered mountains.
This is part of GI’s appeal: they bring together superior quality that consumers can rely on, along with preserving biodiversity and traditional landscapes, local heritage, and generation-driven methods of production. This reputation translates into prices 20 to 50 percent higher than comparable non-GI products.
“The time has come for Sri Lanka to develop a national system based on GI registration to realize value from its reputation as the island of a thousand spices, aromas and culinary traditions. Beyond the well-known Ceylon tea and cinnamon, many Sri Lankan products have the potential to be protected by GIs, including, to name but a few, pepper, coffee and sapphires.
In the words of the Hon, this will take “leadership and openness to cooperation, not just through ministries, but also with the private sector and producer groups.” Daya Gamage, Primary Industry and Social Empowerment Minister. He continued to highlight the growing importance of GIs in bilateral trade negotiations and the need for Sri Lankan consumers, farmers and agribusinesses to raise awareness of GIs.
The project aims to resolve weaknesses in the country’s legal framework for GIs and create capacity for GI registration, control and certification by public authorities to protect product names with GIs. In addition, in order to register their goods, it will provide technical assistance and mentoring to two priority food value chains that still need to be identified. Eventually, it will help set up a GI Working Group to explain the responsibilities and objectives of the various stakeholders involved and initiate a medium-and long-term.vote national GI plan.