Our Favourite Cheeses Gone on the Summer Bries

Roman poet Virgil warned us to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, but Greeks today might well warn everyone else to be wary of the EU bearing gifts. The British can also tell us a thing or two about Brussels’s overbearing arrogance. Australian farmers are justifiably concerned that they’re about to be on the pointy end of EU bullying.

The Brussels enforcers have already put winemakers through the wringer. Dairy farmers are likely to be next to feel the EU boot stamping on their faces.

The European Union is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Australia and could demand brand names in Australia like feta, brie, camembert, haloumi, pecorino and cheddar be dropped, as was the term champagne in the past.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham expects the EU will ask for certain “geographical identifications” (GIs) to be protected as part of the negotiations.

For boutique dairy producer Apostle Whey Cheese, the possibility of not being able to call its cheeses by their traditional names, including its award-winning Southern Briez brie cheese is a big blow.

The EU has shown its true, bullying face in its high-handed negotiations first with Greece, then with Brexit Britain. Australia shouldn’t expect to be treated with anything less than the usual protectionist arrogance and double-standards.

“What really annoys me is that these people want to not allow us to use these names all while heavily subsidised dairy products are coming into Australia that really compete with us.

“They are are dumping these products in Australia which impacts on all products in Australia and makes it tough for Australian producers…

Timboon Cheesery and Schulz Organic Dairy principal Simon Schulz questioned how far the EU would or could go with the GI protections.

“How far will this go, are we going to be restricted from calling cows Friesians and Jerseys because they come from Europe? Where does it end?” he said.

“I can certainly understand when it comes to names like Parmigiano-Reggiano, that makes sense, but I don’t agree with the word ‘parmesan’ because it’s just a loose translation for the style of cheese.

“If they want GI locators on names there needs to be an even playing field. I understand why they do it in Europe but maybe there needs to be a tariff offset here.

The EU regulations will almost certainly go beyond using GIs. Prepare to say goodbye to red-white-and-green mozzarella packaging.

Dairy Australia group manager for trade and industry strategy Charlie McElhone said…”Many products would be regulated to totally rebrand and change the making of labels and the way they market themselves.

“There’s a raft of more than 70 names that the EU has in their sites in terms of restricting use, many of which are very much in the realm of common names.

“On top of that the EU have another element they are championing called the evocation law, which relates to names or images that invoke their country of origin.

“That would mean even the use of Italian flags or colours on a product would be banned.

Australian producers could be forgiven for suspecting that EU producers are just worried about being beaten at their own game.

[Julian Benson:] “Australians produce just as good a cheese as what the Europeans do, we can match anything the Europeans throw at us”…

[Charlie McElhone:] “The real concern is that it’s a moving target when it comes to the EU and the way they impose these regulations, they continually evolve.

“Just look at the discussion around prosecco – it was previously agreed that it was a grape variety but now they’re saying it’s a GI because it’s a brand that’s gaining attraction globally.”