Last week we excitedly welcomed a new nephew, Walter, into our family. The name has German origins meaning ‘Ruler of the Army’ however in modern times it is widely known for the popular red and white striped tourist in the Where’s Wally series of puzzle books. Our Walter will grow to become his own person and define his role in his own special and unique way.

The current trade deal discussions between Australia Ministry of Trade and the EU include restrictions on the use of Geographical Indications (GIs) on a list of 236 products, 70 of which are dairy related. There are two areas of impact; a restriction on the use of common food names, including names of cheeses such as feta, parmesan, and gruyere; and restrictions on packaging, labelling, colours and images that evoke European nations, such as flags and writing style.

Australia has more than 70 brands of feta and 30 brands of parmesan currently in market and at risk in these negotiations. A strict enforcement of GIs could cost an estimated $70-$90 million per year in lost revenue.

If adopted, the changes will impact dairy in a similar way to how the wine industry was hit when champagne and burgundy became protected by GI. Australian producers could not call wine by these names, giving rise to sparkling wines and variety-specific reds such as pinot noir. Costs were incurred initially in lost market share, and then over time in the effort required to rebrand and reposition the newly adapted products.

According to the European Commission, Australia is the 18th largest trading partner with the EU while, on the other hand, in 2017 the EU was Australia’s second-largest trading partner after China. This is a relationship we cannot afford to jeopardise, and the key is to continually adapt and change with consumer demands.

Provenance and authenticity have emerged as key trends in consumer markets, driving premiums and rewards for quality, integrity and sustainability. Consumers want to know and understand the source of ingredients, how a product is produced and where it comes from.

The world is ready for “Australian Beta”; it’s Australian and better than feta! Now is the time for Australian producers to work together and take this opportunity to realise the value of locally grown and made products in international markets.

Australia has an enviable reputation for its clean, green and healthy environment and high standards of production that can be leveraged to demand a premium in the local markets and abroad.

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