'Maintain protected food and drink status' after Brexit

Piles of cider applesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Welsh cider and perry were awarded protected status this year

The protected status of Wales' most iconic food and drink must be maintained after Brexit, the first minister has said.

Carwyn Jones said it was "hugely important" an equivalent system to the EU's Protected Food Name (PFN) was developed.

Fourteen food products from Wales have been granted the status, with more currently being assessed.

A meeting takes place in Leicestershire on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

Anglesey sea salt, Welsh lamb and coracle-caught salmon are amongst the products from Wales which are part of the PFN scheme, designed to promote heritage foods and prevent cheaper imitations.

Image caption,
Laverbread is among the six new foods and drinks awarded the status in 2017

Other examples from across the EU include champagne and Parma ham.

Mr Jones said there was a "big question mark" about how food designations would work once the UK leaves the EU.

He said: "We need to have an equivalent status that operates across the whole of the UK and that is actually recognised by other markets such as the EU.

"It will require a mutual trade agreement where each side would recognise the other side's protections."

So far this year, six new Welsh products have been awarded protection by the EU Commission, including Carmarthen Ham, laverbread, Welsh cider and perry.

Caerphilly cheese and Cardigan Bay prawns hope to secure the same status soon.

Welsh lamb and beef have enjoyed Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) since 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Media caption,

Mike Penney, of Monmouthshire's Troggi Seidr, said EU-status proved the drink "is what is says it is"

Rhys Llywelyn from Meat Promotion Wales said: "It is essential to sustain the status that we already have.

"It shows consumers that our lamb and beef is reared in a traditional manner and it enables us to achieve a premium for our product."

Mr Llywelyn said he was hopeful the designations could be preserved after Brexit.

"There is some precedent here - coffee from Columbia has PGI status awarded by the EU.

"What we need is an equivalent system in the UK where we can register and note the traditions and processes behind the way we produce our food."

The UK PFN Association, which represents industries including Cornish pasties and Scottish salmon, are due to meet officials from the UK Government at Melton Mowbray - home of the famed pork pies.

Owen Roberts, representing Meat Promotion Wales, said: "Our last meeting... explored the options for a seamless transition, to ensure continuity in marketing efforts in Britain, Europe and beyond."

The Welsh Conservatives said a post-Brexit scheme to protect iconic food products was "achievable" if both governments worked together "constructively".

Paul Davies AM, the party's spokesman on agriculture, said: "Ultimately, we all want the same thing, which is to ensure a seamless transition to a new set of arrangements which lock in the premium that products like Welsh lamb, Anglesey Sea Salt and Caerphilly cheese have."

He added it was "not beyond the wit of man to design a similar scheme which recognises the unique quality and origins of Welsh food and drink products".