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Brexit talks 'concerning' for EU status Welsh produce

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Producers of Welsh food and drink protected under EU rules have told BBC Wales that the lack of progress in the Brexit talks is "very concerning".

The future of the EU's Protected Food Name system after Brexit remains unresolved.

UK ministers want to set up their own scheme for domestic products.

The status, which stops products being copied outside from where they are traditionally made, is held by 15 Welsh brands.

Wales' only native cheese, joined Anglesey sea salt, Champagne and Parma Ham when it was awarded PFN status back in January 2018.

The family-owned Caws Cenarth company in Ceredigion was given the right to label some of its products as Traditional Welsh Caerphilly Cheese.

image captionCarwyn Adams's Traditional Welsh Caerphilly Cheese was awarded PFN status in 2018

Head of the company, Carwyn Adams, said the UK dropping out of the EU's scheme would amount to "wasted finances, time and effort".

"It's quite disheartening to be honest but what can we do about it," he said.

"It's much easier for us to convince a consumer to go and try the product than it would be if it was a stand-alone product without the mark."

Ahead of the informal meeting of EU leaders in the Austrian city of Salzburg earlier this month, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier once again highlighted continuing disagreement around the PFN scheme.

The UK Government's blueprint for a future deal with the EU, known as the Chequers White Paper, said "the UK will be establishing its own GI scheme after exit".

image captionGwyn Howells, the Chief Executive of HCC, believes a new UK logo on Welsh products would be 'potentially negative'

The red meat promotion agency, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), said continued Brexit discussions around what is known as 'geographical indicators' was "very concerning" because it has been "an important and integral part of our marketing abroad in Europe and elsewhere in the world."

Of all the Welsh lamb exports, 92% is sold to EU countries where the PFN schemes have a "massive recognition amongst the consuming public".

The protected products in Wales also include PGI Welsh Lamb, PGI Welsh Beef and Welsh Wine.

Gwyn Howells, Chief Executive of HCC, said: "Any new scheme might aspire to have the same principles and same recognition as the current scheme, but it takes a while to achieve consumer awareness and recognition in the marketplace in Europe and that doesn't happen over-night."

Ministers in Westminster said they "expect to introduce a new UK logo for GI products to replace the EU logo", in its guidance on PFN products in the event of a 'no deal' between the UK and EU.

On this potential for a new logo to include the UK flag, Mr Howells said: "It would be confusing and potentially negative. Recent research shows that the British proposition doesn't achieve the same traction as the Welsh proposition in countries like France.

"We've built a very substantial export business on the back of a Welsh provenance product, Welsh branding and a Welsh story. It resonates with other EU consumers."

The design of a new UK scheme will be subject to a UK Government consultation in the coming months.

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