LOCALLY-produce haloumi, feta and parmesan could be under threat from a new free trade agreement with the European Union, the Australian Dairy Industry Council has warned.
It says Australian versions of those cheese varieties, with a value of production of $180 million and export sales of $55m each year, could be pushed out if the EU succeeds in implementing strict labelling rules based on geographic indicators as part of the trade deal.
The EU is attempting to introduce these conditions to “protect distinctive EU food and drink products from imitations in Australia”.
But ADIC is concerned this will mean Australian dairy manufacturers will be required to change the named of common cheeses on their branding.
“A quick look in any supermarket cheese section will show you that many Australian dairy manufacturers have built their brands on their cultural heritage, and now face the possibility of having that taken from them. It is an absolute nightmare scenario,” ADIC chair Terry Richardson said.
“Not only that, but consumers will be confused and frustrated at no longer being able to find some of their favourite dairy products on supermarket shelves.”
He said the EU was also trying to introduce labelling restrictions on the use of colours, flags or symbols that might evoke regions in EU countries, which would hit a further 45,000 tonnes of Australian cheese production, worth $300m in domestic and export sales each year.
Mr Richardson said the federal government needed to take stronger action during trade talks to ensure the local dairy industry would not suffer under a new trade agreement.
“The future of the Australian dairy industry depends on the federal government’s courage to stay firm in trade negotiations and push back against the EU’s demand to enforce GI restrictions,” he said
“These trade negotiations should allow both Australia and the EU to capitalise on an improved commercial relationship.
“But we need to ensure this deal frees up the trade relationship rather than creates technical barriers such as GIs.”