News

Analysis of the implementation of the EU Optional Quality Term “mountain product”

Apr 24, 2024

Author: Francesca Alampi (AREPO)

As part of the MOVING project, AREPO, in collaboration with Euromontana and Highclere Consulting (HCC), realised an analysis on the implementation of the EU Optional Quality Term (OQT) “mountain product” with the aim to contribute to develop evidence-based recommendations to further strengthen this quality scheme.

European Survey on OQT “mountain product”

This voluntary quality scheme represents a significant development in EU agricultural policy landscape for mountainous regions, providing recognition and support for agricultural products originating in these areas and acknowledging the challenges and opportunities associated with mountain farming.

The analysis, conducted through a double survey directed to regional administrations and producers using the OQT “mountain product”, sought to collect data on the impacts of the OQT on farmers’ incomes and local economies, evaluate consumer perceptions, and explore its relationship with other quality schemes, with the ultimate goal of contributing to update the last version of Euromontana study on the topic.

Key findings

The key finding from the analysis is that 88% of the producers surveyed intend to continue using OQT, reflecting a positive outlook and trust in the scheme’s potential benefits.

Survey findings indicate the predominance of primary producers participating in the scheme, primarily engaged in fruit, vegetable, cereal, honey, and dairy production. The principal selling outlet is local market and satisfaction with the scheme is expressed by a majority (60%), recognising its impact in generating more demand for the product and accessing new markets rather than in term of generating price premiums, thanks to an increased interest from customers.

Furthermore, as emerged from the survey analysis, 22% of respondents participate in other quality schemes stressing a positive synergy and complementarity between different quality schemes.

Challenges to be addressed

The survey allowed to identify several challenges linked to the design and implementation of the OQT, stemming from both specific obstacles related to the OQT and broader issues inherent to mountainous regions.

There’s critical lack of awareness and understanding among consumers, extending also across various stakeholders, including wholesalers, processors, and tourists. This is echoed by insufficient awareness among producers concerning the OQT existence and its conditions of use.

Logistical challenges inherent to production in mountainous regions pose significant hurdles, worsened by stiff competition from similar products sourced from lowland areas, often priced lower and of inferior quality.

The exploitation of the mountain image without restraint is due to a legislative gap in prohibiting other references to mountains despite the protection afforded to the term “mountain product” under EU legislation.

Intensifying these challenges are the lack of collective governance to advocate for mountain producers’ interests, limited institutional support and inadequate promotion measures.

Recommendations

To address these challenges, the analysis formulates evidence-based recommendations targeting various levels of governance.

At the EU level, specific measures to support OQT producers and enhance consumer awareness are proposed. National and regional interventions include improving control measures, infrastructure access, and support for the creation and strengthening of mountain producer associations or groups to enhance collective governance and advocacy. Local initiatives focus on territorial promotion, collaboration between producers and authorities, and the development of specific promotional materials and events.

While the survey’s geographical coverage is limited (only 3 Member States out of a total of 9 EU Member States that implemented the OQT at national level), valuable insights have been gleaned, providing initial indications and areas for further exploration to strengthen the OQT “mountain product” scheme, foster sustainable development in mountainous regions, and promote the cultural and environmental heritage associated with mountain agriculture.

Further analysis and dissemination of findings are necessary to refine policy interventions and enhance the scheme’s effectiveness.

Further resources: Report Analysis of the implementation of the EU optional quality term “mountain product”