I am very conscious of the role played by suckler farming in sustaining the rural economy and rural communities across Ireland.
A Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), as referred to by the Deputy, is a product, which must be produced, processed or prepared in a particular geographical area, and where a specific quality reputation, or other characteristics are attributable to that area. I believe that such schemes can provide a positive economic opportunity for producers and for rural areas. An application can be submitted by, or on behalf of, a group of producers.
Earlier this year, my Department organised a workshop on Geographical Indications, with participation by the EU Commission and a range of stakeholders, at which the possibility of applying for a PGI for Irish beef was explored.
PGI status requires products to be produced in accordance with a particular technical specification and producers are required to meet that specification to ensure production meets the quality standards set.
Where there are large numbers of producers it can be a significant undertaking, requiring a disciplined and harmonised approach to production and its verification. Nevertheless, there can be significant marketing advantages and there was very positive feedback from participants at the workshop. My officials are currently examining the key elements required in such an application, in consultation with stakeholders.
An application can only be submitted by, or on behalf of, a group of producers. A formal national consultation period is also required.