EU’s drive to monopolise global cheese market unfair and unfounded

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The registration of ‘Danbo’ as a protected geographic Indication (GI) for cheese has heightened concern by the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) that the European Union is adding new trade barriers to monopolise value in the global cheese market.

Cheese is the New Zealand dairy industry’s second largest export product category, with exports earnings of NZ$1.8 billion in the year to June 2017. This trade is facilitated by the use of commonly understood cheese variety names, many of which happen to have a European origin.

“The registration of Danbo demonstrates that the EU is now clawing back and protecting cheese names that are clearly in common use globally” says DCANZ Executive Director Kimberly Crewther.

DCANZ is concerned about where this protection of cheese names will end. The registration of a cheese as a geographic indicator means it can only be sold in Europe by producers in the designated geography. The EU is actively seeking to extend this protection to other markets via trade agreements.

“While New Zealand is not a large producer of Danbo, we are significant producers of many other common cheese varieties which have European origins for their name, like parmesan and mozzarella” says Crewther.

“Can we now expect the EU to seek similar protection for other common cheese names, which have been manufactured and exported by producers in New Zealand and elsewhere for many years?”

DCANZ has no objection to the EU’s extension of GI protections for cheese names that are genuinely unique to a particular geography. But in the case of Danbo, every reasonable consideration for a cheese name to be considered as a generic varietal term is present. This includes past acknowledgement by Danish dairy industry bodies that Danbo is a generic cheese name and that Uruguay is a significant global producer, as a result of Danish assistance to develop manufacturing of Danbo in Uruguay.

Danbo was first manufactured in New Zealand in 1960 and a New Zealand produced Danbo cheese has regularly been on the medal podium at the New Zealand Champions of awards in recent years.

DCANZ joined counterpart organisations from Uruguay, Australia, and the US in objecting to the registration of Danbo cheese.

“The European Union’s rejection of our concerns makes a mockery of its own system” says Crewther.