Mountain Products in Europe – a potential to be developed
Mountain areas cover over 40% of the European territory at large. In these areas, agriculture is a key economic sector providing jobs and contributing to shape landscapes and territorial identities.
On the one hand, mountain areas face specific constraints relating to elevation and climate, and production and consumption are often far removed, resulting in higher trading costs.
On the other hand, several research studies such as Mountain Quality Food Products – 2002-2004 and EuroMARC have shown that quality mountain products have specific features due to the distinctive raw materials and methods used in their production. According to this research, the special characteristics of quality mountain products are clearly distinguished by consumers, who associate mountain products to extensive and traditional production systems, providing public goods and added value for local economies.
Natural production in protected mountain environments provide specific features to highly appreciated types of meat such as the Highlands lamb and Highlands bovine meat from Scotland, the mountain pork in France or the Basque bovine meat in the Basque Country (Spain). These special environment and natural production systems are also behind the commercial success of mountain olive oil, certain kinds of fruit, and herbal teas that can be found in Spain, Romania, France or Italy.
Apart from the distinctive quality of raw materials, the specific know–how of mountain areas is responsible for the uniqueness of certain transformed products such as particular kinds of cheese and sausages.
The new optional quality term ‘Mountain Product’ (Reg. (EU) No. 1151/2012) offers for the first time the possibility to identify quality mountain products and highlight their added value to consumers.