What EU FTA means for the names of NZ-made cheeses

Source: 1News

Kiwi cheese lovers are running out of time to buy locally-made feta under that name after New Zealand's major free trade deal with the European Union was confirmed overnight.

The free trade agreement (FTA) saw the EU submit a list of about 2000 products to New Zealand that have geographic indicators. This stops other businesses from selling items under those names unless they're from a certain region.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokesperson said cheese producers in New Zealand would have to stop using the name feta within nine years of the FTA coming into force.

Local gorgonzola producers would also face the same restriction, but within five years of the FTA being in place, the spokesperson said.

As for parmesan and gruyère, Kiwi cheese producers would be able to continue using the names if they've been making the products for five or more years before the FTA begins.

Other names like mozzarella, brie, camembert and gouda can continue to be used without restrictions.

The New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association said negotiators had bowed to EU pressure and had given away "key cheese names".

The association's chairperson Catherine McNamara said there was a particular concern about the loss of the name feta.

"The loss of a generic name like feta gives us grave concerns that other generic traditional cheese names such as havarti and haloumi will soon be up for discussion too. It creates an uncertain environment for New Zealand specialist cheesemakers.

"We are now calling on the Government to support industry and to work with us to create a New Zealand naming system which can be protected and invested in."

She said local cheesemakers were worried about their futures.

Meanwhile, trade expert and former MFAT official Charles Finny told Breakfast last week he was confident cheese marketers would seize the opportunity to rebrand New Zealand's products.

He was optimistic about New Zealand's cheeses because the country had successfully rebranded the likes of Chinese gooseberries and certain wine varieties before.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister Damien O'Connor announced the FTA early on Friday morning after completing negotiations for the deal in Europe.

The deal will see tariffs for wine, manuka honey, onions, apples, almost all seafood and other horticulture products eliminated, saving New Zealand exporters $110 million every year.

The EU is New Zealand's fourth-largest trading partner with two-way goods and services trade worth $17.5 billion for the year to December 2021.

Not everyone is happy with the agreement, including New Zealand's red meat sector, farmers, and dairy companies.

O'Connor acknowledged on Breakfast those in beef and dairy had aspirations of higher volumes. He denied the Government had let the sector down.