Welsh Leeks have become the latest addition to the UK Geographical Indication (GI) Scheme, which protects the name, authenticity and characteristics of regional products.
Shoppers will be able to clearly see a logo on the label showing they are buying the real thing, and producers will benefit knowing that others cannot imitate them.
The protection applies to all verified products sold in Great Britain as ‘Welsh Leeks’ and is expected to be a boost for the industry.
Leeks have been a national symbol for Wales for centuries. Their protection is part of the UK GI scheme, which also protects renowned British produce such as Cornish clotted cream and Scotch Whisky and helps consumers know they are buying high quality, authentic products.
As the newest addition to the UK GI scheme, protecting a product’s name, characteristics, authenticity, and origin, Welsh Leeks will be traceable from field to fork, tracked throughout their growing, harvesting and sale.
There are now 92 UK produced GI products: 81 agricultural and food products, six wines and five spirit drinks.
As well as their distinctive strong peppery taste and vibrant green colour Welsh Leeks are known to grow on harder, sometimes stony soil, including in coastal areas of Wales.
The UK Geographical Indication Scheme is very similar to the EU’s protected designation of origin scheme which serves the same function. Similar schemes in both the UK and EU cover products produced in specific areas or produced in similar ways. Applications for protected status will need to be considered by the EU before Welsh Leeks are protected there.
Food and Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “Leeks have been intertwined with Welsh culture for centuries. But not only do they crop up again and again as national symbols throughout the nation’s rich history – they are a delicious part of the national cuisine across the whole country. By protecting them as a UK Geographical Indication, we can make sure shoppers know what they have on their plate, and producers are protected and can take full credit for their work.”
Parliamentary Undersecretary in the Wales Office, Dr James Davies, said: “The farming and food sector are incredibly important in Wales, and we are rightly recognised for our high-quality produce. Shoppers will now be able to easily identify the iconic Welsh leek with its distinctive taste, giving Welsh leek producers an advantage, and helping them to expand and grow their businesses.”
We are thrilled that Welsh Leeks have been granted the GI status. The leek has long been synonymous with Wales and it is fitting that its distinctive look, taste and flavour have now been recognised and protected.NFU Cymru President Aled Jones
In receiving this status, Welsh Leeks join a long list of products from Wales enjoying protected status. This recognition of the quality of the food we produce here in Wales will be very important as we look to grow markets for our products.
Huw Thomas, CEO at Puffin Produce, who applied for Welsh Leeks to be designated as a GI, said: “The Leek is an iconic emblem of Wales – we are incredibly proud to be able to grow Welsh Leeks and the GI status is hugely important to promote the quality and heritage behind this majestic crop.”
Protected status for iconic produce has proven to be a boon since it’s introduction in 1992. While they are somewhat distorting of markets where applied carefully they help to maintain some of the richness of culinary culture and defend against complete homogenisation which globalisation can bring.
While the welsh leek is an obvious candidate for selection, iconic for Wales, important to farmers and sought after by consumers, it is important that we are sparing in the application of protection. If overused, the GI scheme could well experience diminishing returns. If everything is special, then nothing is.
Photo Credit: John Hughes