Hawaii’s Kona coffee wins International Parmigiano-Reggiano Award

Geographical indications debated at Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto in Turin: The protection of products of origin is good for consumers and defends the identity of places and people

Reggio Emilia, October 23, 2010 "We, the Kona coffee farmers, are thrilled to receive this Parmigiano-Reggiano International Award, which greatly advances the recognition of our struggles to keep the unique terroir and processing of Kona Coffee 100% pure."

These were the words of the Hawaiian coffee producers’ representative, Colehour Bondera, vice-president of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association, as Giuseppe Alai, president of the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium, presented him with the fourth Parmigiano-Reggiano International Award.
The award ceremony took place today in Turin at the Salone del Gusto, Slow Food’s biannual event, sponsored by the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium since its early days. It was preceded by a discussion that explored the protection and promotion of geographic indications in international markets.

Giuseppe Alai and Colehour Bondera

“This issue is of extraordinary importance at a global level,” said Giuseppe Alai, “particularly given the fact that within the World Trade Organization the problem of protecting these products of excellence, with a strong link to place, remains open, while very important steps forward have been taken by the European Union. This is shown by the judgements in favor of the consortium against products that imitate or recall the name of our PDO.”

“These successes are certainly due to forward-thinking European legislation, but also the fact that we are the first cheese-protecting consortium, formed in 1934 to brand the cheese, to differentiate it and to protect producers and consumers. This is why we wanted to give this award to Kona Coffee, because it is one of those products from outside Europe that is seeking to obtain legal recognition and protection, and we wish to support its actions.”

The presentation of the award was also an opportunity to delve deeper into these issues during the meeting “Geographical Indications: Local Production, Global Protection.” Representatives from the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium, Slow Food and OriGIn took part along with Kona Coffee producers.

“The problem of the protection of geographical indications is that this protection does not exist at the World Trade Organization level,” said Giuseppe Alai during the debate. “This allows fakes and imitations to remain and also spread, and they represent a serious loss to producers and a fraud towards consumers. In recent days all the Italian protective consortia have formed a united front at the European Parliament against these phenomena, asking it to support protection for the whole global market.”
Massimo Vittori, the general secretary of oriGIn, the Geneva-based global network of producers of geographical indications, recounted the situation for products of origin within a big market, the United States. “In recent years, the phenomenon of geographical indications has generated growing interest in the United States. This has been reflected in a number of American associations joining oriGIn,” he said.

“As American farmers invest more in quality and consumers start to understand and appreciate the benefits that come from geographical indications, the evident shortfalls of a protection system based on trademarks become clear. The problems and high costs the Kona Coffee Farmers Association regularly faces to fight imitations are an obvious example. At the same time, the increase in misleading marketing techniques affecting American products of origin on the international market shows that strengthening the international rules on geographical indications, particularly at the WTO level, would benefit both the US quality food business and American consumers.”

“We believe it is right that the food-producing territories in the Global North also look to the indisputably more disadvantaged communities in the South, which suffer from dramatic food insecurity and are penalized by international laws,” said Piero Sardo, president of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. “The future will be cooperation in a modern sense, in other words not linking assistance to generic charity, but directing it towards creating fairer production and trade situations. For example, this coffee from Hawaii, excellent from many perspectives, does not enjoy institutional protection from the WTO, which does not recognize geographical indications, and can therefore be easily faked. This is how a long-standing, solid and recognized consortium like that of Parmigiano Reggiano can help such a different and distant product, and Slow Food will accompany them along this journey.”

“Deceitful practices are also affecting Kona Coffee,” stated the consortium’s director, Leo Bertozzi, “as is clear from the tough and unfair competition it is facing from a blend called “Kona Coffee Blend,” which contains only 10% Kona coffee mixed with coffee from other places, often of low quality. The award we are presenting is intended as a sign of solidarity with the Hawaiian producers. We share their fight, which is also ours: sweeping away from the world these imitations and frauds (sometimes brazenly recognized as such, not just tolerated), which affect the best of the food industry, in order to give consumers the possibility of making informed purchases of products of origin, meaning that places and farmers are protected and promoted.”

Parmigiano-Reggiano International Award

More Information on the Parmigiano-Reggiano International Award

Established by the consortium in 2004, on the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Parmigiano-Reggiano International Award has now reached its fourth edition.
It is presented every two years to a traditional product from another country that shares the characteristics of geographical indication products, expresses its territory of origin, is under attack from fakes and has an organization that is seeking to protect it. Past winners have been Quebec Ice Cider in 2004, made by fermenting frozen apples; Colombian Coffee in 2006, which subsequently received the first recognition from the EC as a PGI product from a non-European country; and Moroccan Argan Oil in 2008, pressed from the kernels of the argan tree in an arid zone of southern Morocco.