An international conference within the LOC FOOD project: “Local development and cross-border cooperation for the promotion of traditional agricultural products and food” was held at the Varna University of Management in Varna.
The event was opened by Prof. Dr. Stanislav Ivanov, Vice-Rector for Research at the University and Anastasios Zafeyridis, a representative of the Ministry of Interior of the Hellenic Republic. Participants from Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine spoke about the national systems for traditional foods, the achievements in acquiring geographical indications of origin and the prospects and challenges in this direction. The experts also discussed the possibility of using food as a hallmark of turning the Black Sea region into an attractive tourist destination.
The focus of the conference was on the growing popularity of geographical indications of origin – geographical indications, designations of origin, foods of traditional specific nature. These European labels highlight region-specific foods and products whose characteristic qualities and tastes are the result of the region’s unique features and preserved culinary and economic traditions, thus providing many benefits to both the producers themselves and the local social community and to economic growth. They also create conditions for the promotion of the cultural wealth of the respective country.
The opening panel of the event from Brussels was attended by Prof. Ivo Hristov, Member of the European Parliament, who explained the European quality policy and the purpose of geographical indications. “It is a pleasure for me to speak to you on a topic that is important for both the prosperity of the regions and our cultural heritage. The demand for agricultural products and foods with recognizable specific characteristics and mostly related to their geographical origin is growing, “added Ivo Hristov.
The National Program for Local Traditional and Regional Traditional Foods in Bulgaria was presented by Georgi Sabev, Political Adviser to the European Parliament and former Deputy Minister of Agriculture in Bulgaria. “The program is 10 years old, started in 2021, and includes a number of measures aimed at raising awareness of local and regional traditional products in Bulgaria. Its goal is for everyone to unite and work together, to return Bulgarian products to the market, “said Georgi Sabev. He added that measures are envisaged to adapt the legislation to assist producers and involve all stakeholders – the food industry, the tourism sector, cultural institutions, universities working in the field of local food. It became clear that a common national base was to be created, which would show the different traditional products from different parts of the country.
“We are happy that our first physical event is here in Varna. We emphasize better and more active use of geographical indications to preserve the local identity of foods or knowledge of how these foods are produced, as well as raising awareness and learning how these schemes can be used first to preserve them, which we have secondly for its better presentation on the market. Geographical indications themselves are rather an international standard, which is relevant to intellectual property rights, “said Tsvetalina Genova, head of the”Projects and Applied Research” department at VUM. She explained that in this way the collective knowledge about the production of a product is protected, as well as the rights of a certain group of producers to be able to use these signs together and to enter the market, which is not yet a fact in our country. She also added that in the next programming period there is funding for the protection of geographical indications, which will benefit producers.
The potential and sustainability of Bulgarian food and agricultural products was reviewed by experts from the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at BAN (IBEI – BAS). The local traditional, neglected and newly introduced cereals and their application in gastronomy were presented by Dr. Hristo Stoyanov, a breeder from the Dobrudzha Agricultural Institute – General Toshevo.
The event ended with a round table to present stakeholders and exchange experiences, in which participants had the opportunity to share their ideas and identify potential topics of mutual interest, with a view to future cooperation and new initiatives.
The project “Local Development and Cross-Border Cooperation for the Promotion of Traditional Agricultural Products and Foods” (LOC FOOD) evaluates the potential of local, traditional agricultural products for the development of rural economies in the Black Sea region. It seeks to increase the visibility of locally produced food of exceptional taste and quality, to support its storage and production, and to offer added value for the development of the local community. The project is funded by the Black Sea Basin 2014-2020 program.