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Does Ireland need it's own AOC for it's top quality produce?

  • 22-03-2017 4:15am
    Registered Users Posts: 292 ✭✭

    I've been thinking about two things lately 1) as a member of the diaspora, I've long believed that David McWilliams is onto something when he says that the Irish diaspora is a huge human/cultural resource that is currently near completely untapped by the state and 2) ways that the Irish economy can survive the fallout of Brexit.
    One thing that comes to mind the French AOC or appellation d'origine contrôlée, meaning  "controlled designation of origin". The AOC is a government ministry that ensures that high quality agricultural products that are known around the country/world live up to their name ie. they are made in the regions they originated to the standards they built their name. I'm sure you all know of it already, but it's basically why champagne is only champagne if it's from Champagne and it's a large part of why those French products are so highly regarded around the world - and therefore, well exported. Particularly it has served as a means of value addition to agricultural products from regions of France that would otherwise be poor farming communities and instead are international renowned tourist destinations, not only exporting their products with a healthy profit margin but also increasing tourism.
    So why not Ireland? Many of Ireland largest exports are food & drink based, from butter to cheese to beef, and some of the most highly regarded of these products are tied to specific regions - but without an Irish AOC, anyone can call their cheese Cashell blue and flog it, tarnishing the reputation of that cheese if it fails to live up to those expectations. The Brits have this issue with cheddar - when you buy cheese called cheddar from a supermarket, you have no clue where it's from or how it was made and if it's any good or not, in fact chances are far far far higher that it is 1) not from cheddar and 2) tastes like plastic.
    In terms of how this relates to the diaspora, well, if an Irish AOC was coupled with a state coordinated marketing campaign to raise awareness amongst consumers in parts of the world with a large number of people who associate as Irish eg. parts of the US, it could serve to boost sales of Irish exports to these consumers. When an Irish American family get together for a St Patrick's meal, instead of just throwing together an Irish stew with whatever they can find down the local supermarket that fits the recipe, they may go out of their way to buy some Irish AOC certified ingredients.
    Same goes for Irish tea, whiskey, coffee, confectionaries etc.
    Oh and while we're at it, restart the single malt scene in Ireland. If I had a penny for every tourist that expected the same kind of distillery experience in Ireland as they found in Scotland I'd be a wealthy man. That needs to happen.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 667 ✭✭✭Balf

    I suppose two things come mind.

    Firstly, you might want to reflect on whether AOC has protected the French wine industry from strong competition from New World wines. Or whether protection of the "Champagne" name has prevented the emergence of Prosecco as an ubiquitous cheap alternative.

    Secondly, do we not already do pretty much what you say? The Kerrygold brand was invented by An Bord Bainne/Irish Dairy Board in 1962, a State body set up by the Irish Government to market Irish product. The purpose of the brand was to distinguish Irish produce.

    The Irish Dairy Board also now markets Cashel Blue. I think it is just a commercial trade mark, so not everyone can use the name - it's a new product, not a traditional cheese like Cheddar.

    As to whiskey, there's several initiatives involving the building of new distilleries and heavy promotion of the Irish nature of the product.

    I don't think we underplay the "Irish" appeal, tbh. Like tourism, we've promoted it strongly for decades - and achieved reasonable results. I think its just the sector doesn't have boundless capacity for growth.

    That's why we end up so dependent on FDI companies exporting products and brands developed elsewhere.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 20,297 ✭✭✭✭Jawgap

    Ireland doesn't need an AOC type scheme......

    ......producers just need to use the existing legislation to get PDO, TSGs and PGIs ('Champagne' is a PDO).......but they won't because that would require organising themselves rather than relying on Bord Bia.

    Irish Whiskey is in the process of getting protection under a different arrangement (Reg 1576/89).