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Monday 5 July 2010

Patricia Covarrubia

Plum D’Agne - Geographical Indication: Chile’s sweet and tasty business

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On May 14, farmers in the area of D'Agen in France formally requested the Geographical Identification (GI) for Prunes D’Agne in Chile. If the registration succeeds, this will prevent the domestic industry to market the product under that name. The request was formalized by publication in the Official Journal in Chile. Note that ‘Pruneaux d'Agen’ is a registered PGI in the EU since 2002 and also in France as GI since 1999.

The article in the 'Revista del Campo' by the newspaper 'El Mercurio' mentions that the name has become almost a generic name for dried plums and that is used internationally by many countries. In Chile, almost all its production is being exported under that name. The Association of Processors and Exporters of Chile Prunes (Apecs) explains that over 90% of it production goes under the name D'Agen and the rest is under the name/type ‘President’.

Representatives of D'Agen in France argue that the production of that area has specific qualities and other markets have used the name to take advantage. The petition states that "the New World producers (Chile, Argentina, California, Australia and South Africa) have tried to link their products with the image of the French plums, using the same name." He continues to say that the production process in France is twice more expensive than in California, three times more than in Chile and five times more than Argentina, which would justify its request that only they can market it - it is not the same product.

Chile is the second largest producer of dried plums in the world, after California. It reported revenues of U.S. $ 120 million annually. It is reported that France does not export because it uses its production to supply the high domestic consumption.

The Chileans are looking for tools to oppose the measure and defend a market that for the past eight years has had tremendous growth in the continent. They have until July 23 to respond on the request.

A note in GI – the EU and Chile
Chilean producers may oppose to registration under Ley 20160 (modifying Ley 19039 – Propiedad Industrial). They can argue for instance:

Article 95 .- It cannot be recognized as geographical indications or appellations of origin
signs or expressions:
[...] d) that are common or generic as to distinguish the product concerned, it being understood
those that are considered as such by connoisseurs of matter or the general public, unless it has been recognized as a geographical indication or Appellations of Origin under an international treaty ratified by Chile.. "

Chile and the EU has in place a Free Trade Agreement in which there is a specific section which cover GI but only regarding ‘wines and spirits’ (section 6, Annex V and VI) – no agriculture and foodstuff were discussed.

The EU pushing?
Back in October 2009, the blog reported the intention of the EU to re-negotiate GI in the dairy product. The Chilean producers refused such negotiation. Would this be the way? At this stage, I believe that by looking for individual and national registration is the way to go. However it is indeed tedious and expensive and it would be for every producer to do so - there are more than 900 agriculture and foodstuff products registered at the EU level.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia