The Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Mr Simon Birmingham visited the Barossa Valley last week as part of the launch of public consultations on Geographical Indications (GIs) being considered within Australia’s free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union (EU).
The list of the EU’s proposed protected terms names 127 food items, including beers, meats, spices, oils and cheeses, most notably Feta.
Mr Birmingham, who is also a Senator for South Australia, is consulting producers and businesses across Australia on their views in relation to GIs and the free trade agreement, and on Thursday visited Barossa Valley Cheese Company in Angaston and Nietschke’s dairy in Koonunga, as well as making stops at exporting wineries, Hewiston and Yalumba as part of his itinerary.
Mr Birmingham said that a deal with the EU offers enormous opportunities to get more Australian product with lower taxes into a marketplace of more than 500 million people.
“In terms of cheeses, some of the EU’s demands might be reasonable, some of them might be unreasonable,” Mr Birmingham said.
“What I’m really trying to do at present is listen to local cheesemakers around the area [and] dairy producers, understand their business models and what really matters to their businesses into the future to make sure we extract the best possible deal from the EU for all aspects of Australian agriculture and industry.”
Founder and Head Cheesemaker of Barossa Valley Cheese Company, Ms Victoria McClurg said that while using cheese ‘style’ terms such as Feta aids consumer understanding of the product, she has always been very specific about identifying the region of origin of her cheeses.
“We’ve always called it a Barossa Feta or Barossa Halloumi or Barossa Camembert,” she said.
“The Barossa name is the thing I want people to connect with the most, that’s why it’s important for us to be able to keep that.”
Whether Barossa Valley Cheese Company and other producers will be able to continue using the term Feta, or any of the GIs put forward by the EU, is still yet to be decided, but Mr Birmingham confirmed that he will negotiate for the best possible outcomes for Australian businesses and producers.