EU “Quality Package” sets put for the first time a comprehensive policy on certification schemes, value-adding terms for agricultural product qualities, and product standards.
Guaranteeing quality to consumers and a fair price for farmers are the twin aims of the "Quality Package" adopted on 10 December by the European Commission. This Quality Package sets up for the first time a comprehensive policy on certification schemes, value-adding terms for agricultural product qualities, and product standards. Until now these have been spread among numerous pieces of legislation. With this Package, the Commission covers all facets of quality, from compliance with minimum standards to highly specific products.
"The strength of European agricultural production lies in its diversity, in the know-how of farmers, and in the soil and territories of production", said Dacian CIOLOŞ,
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development today, adding, "Farmers, who are under pressure from the economic downturn, concentration of retailer bargaining power, and global competition, need the tools to better communicate about their products to consumers. This Quality Package is a first step on the path of building on a stronger and more dynamic farming sector which will be followed by other initiatives".
The Quality Package comprises:
- A proposal for a new 'Agricultural Product Quality Schemes Regulation', bringing coherence and clarity to the EU schemes: reinforcing the flagship scheme for protected designations of origin and geographical indications (PDOs and PGIs); overhauling the traditional specialities guaranteed scheme (TSGs), and laying down a new framework for the development of Optional Quality Terms to provide consumers with information they increasingly demand, such as 'free range'' and 'first cold pressing'.
- A proposal to streamline adoption of marketing standards by the Commission, including the power to extend place of farming labelling in accordance with the specificity of each agricultural sector.
- New Guidelines on best practices for voluntary certification schemes and on the labelling of products using geographical indications as ingredients.
The Quality Package is the first step in the overhaul agricultural product quality policy. It is the result of 3 years of extensive consultation and participation of stakeholders. It opens the way to a more coherent agricultural product quality policy.
For the future, the Commission announced its intention to study further the problems faced by small-scale producers in participating in EU quality schemes as well as by mountain producers to market their products and to propose additional follow-up on the basis of this analysis, if necessary.
The first Commission legislative proposal aims at reinforcing the existing EU quality schemes on geographical indications, traditional specialities and optional quality terms by gathering them into a single legislation, by introducing a common, simplified and shortened registration procedure for geographical indications and traditional specialities, clarified provisions as regard the relations between trade marks and geographical indications, the role of applicant groups and the definition of a 'traditional speciality guaranteed'.
Voluntary guidelines on the labelling of products using geographical indications as ingredients, adopted the same day, give the Commission's interpretation of the current rules in this regard.
Marketing standards contribute to improving the economic conditions for production and marketing of agricultural products, as well as the quality of such products. Current sectoral marketing standards will continue to exist, and may be streamlined in the future, in a more coherent way, through a uniform mechanism by delegation of powers to the Commission in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty ("delegated acts"). This will allow technical norms to be adapted to the realities in the field. For those products where no specific standard exist, baseline requirements will apply. The Commission also proposes to extend sectoral rules (also as "delegated acts") regarding the indication of the place of farming, on the basis of impact assessments, taking account of the specificities of each sector and of consumer requests for transparency.
The fourth element of the Package are the Commission guidelines on the functioning of voluntary certification schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. They aim at showing best practice for the functioning of the hundreds of voluntary certification schemes that have developed in the last decade (a newly released inventory study done for the Commission lists more than 400 schemes operating in the EU).
DG AGRI webpage on Quality Package: