Graham Watson MEP
Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar
A local champion with an international reputation
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Published on Wednesday 14th December 2011
The food and drink industry is a vital component of the South West economy. The pub trade alone adds over £2 billion to the regional economy and employs nearly 100,000 people. Around 30% of the UK's diary farming is in the region and the food manufacturing sector adds over £2.6 billion to the economy.
In addition to the sectors connection with the region, the heritage and celebration of products such as Westcountry Farmhouse Cheddar, Dorset Blue Vinny, Somerset Cider and Cornish ale. Many products have attempted to protect their heritage through European wide scheme called PGI (Protected Geographic Indication). This list boasts famous names such as Parma Ham, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Champage and this year saw two new additions from here in the South West. Both of which received a large amount of help from Graham Watson.
Earlier in the year the Cornish Pasty Association were delighted to announce that they had successfully won the right for Cornish Pasty's, from a certain recipie, made or sourced from the borders of the Duchy, had the right to be called as such.
Later in the year, Somerset based Cider producer Julian Temperley secured the same status for Somerset Cider Brandy. Whilst the Cornish pasty simply had to jump through the bureaucratic hoops towards PGI status, the journey of the famous tipple located just down the road from Graham's Central Somerset base was a little more complicated.
Somerset Cider Brandy had been excluded from a European agreement, (mainly at the fault of the British Spirit Drinks Association) which threatened the business of his centuries old drink. Graham took up the fight alongside Mr Temperley and after many years of fighting against a armada of Spanish Brandy producers and with the help of the Department for Rural Affairs, won the fight!
At the time Graham said,
"We have achieved a victory against a modern day Spanish armada – all be it one of Brandy producers! European PGI status protects a fine West Country tipple from lesser imitations. It ensures a centuries old recipe can rightly be sold as cider brandy, both here and across the world. It’s fantastic that it will now have the same legal protection as other drinks such as Champagne.”
Graham is committed to defending the great food and drink heritage of this region and is hopes that more products are added to the PGI list.