According to The Asahi Shimbun, Yubari Melon and Kobe Beef are among the first batch of agricultural products to be given special brand protection status by the government.
The “Geographical Indication Protection System,” introduced in June, aims to protect brands with production methods unique to their region. The system covers agricultural, forestry, fishery and food products.
Seven products were registered on 22 Dec. The others are Tajima Beef from Hyogo Prefecture, Kagoshima Tsubo-zukuri Black Vinegar, Aomori Cassis, Edosaki Squash from Ibaraki Prefecture, and Traditional Authentic Yame Gyokuro tea from Fukuoka Prefecture.
Registration allows producers to sell their products with the government-designated GI Mark.
The system will make it easier for the government to crack down on fake products and punish violators with fines. It will also make it easier for consumers to choose products authentic to the region.
As the system is expected to heighten the popularity of brands with the GI Mark, producers are anticipating increased revenues.
The system created by the World Trade Organization is used in more than 100 countries.
Previously, producers were obliged to take expensive legal action to counter the spread of fake products.
“The new system will serve as a deterrent against fake products,” said an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
In choosing the first group of products for GI registration, the ministry put importance on whether the production method or quality control unique to each region is established rather than the reputation of the item or its history.
In the case of Edosaki Squash produced in Inashiki and Ushiku’s Katsuracho district in Ibaraki Prefecture, producers ship only fully ripened squashes with a soft texture.
“As there are also many other rules, some farmers stopped producing them. But those rules are necessary to maintain the brand,” said an official of an agricultural cooperative, JA Inashiki.
In the case of Aomori Cassis, a fruit grown in the city of Aomori and Higashi-Tsugaru-gun in Aomori Prefecture, the work is labor-intensive. Farmers pick the berries by hand, one at a time so as not to damage them.
“Aomori Cassis is not widely known. But our firm quality control was recognized (by the government),” said Daisuke Ishioka, chairman of the Aomori Cassis no Kai (Group of Aomori Cassis).
The ministry has received applications for GI registration on more than 50 products and plans to screen them at a pace of once a month to add to the list.
Because counterfeiting is rampant overseas, the government plans to enact a new law or revise current laws that would allow it to cooperate with foreign countries that have the same system.
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