Strawberries from southwestern France: a fourth variety gets a “Label Rouge”

Strawberries from southwestern France:

a fourth variety gets a “Label Rouge”

The “Label Rouge” n° LA 16/08 rulebook for strawberries, which is well-established in its historic birthplace in the Lot et Garonne region (where one third of French strawberry production is concentrated), has just honored a fourth variety with its own quality label: Mariguette. 

With “AOP” for Protected Origin Appellation, “AOC” for Controlled Origin Appellation, and “IGP” for Protected Geographical Indication, France stands out for its many agricultural and agri-food appellations, certifications, and quality labels. Created in 1960, “Label Rouge” (Red Label) certification guarantees that a product meets a range of standards that grant it superior quality as compared to similar products. Its perimeter is national, meaning it is not tied to a specific geographical area. More than 430 items can flaunt that symbol of quality, and now a new variety of strawberry has just been awarded the label.  

After Charlotte strawberries, Ciflorette and the famous Gariguette variety, it is now the Mariguette variety’s turn to enter the Label Rouge n° LA 16/08 rulebook. The variety, which was created in 2013, has a recognizably elongated shape, not unlike Gariguettes. The berries also boast a ruby-red hue that is typical of Mara des Bois, which is where they get their sweet flavor.

  • High stakes for the sector –

No new varieties had been Label Rouge certified for ten years. “The difference between “Label Rouge˝ certified strawberries and other easy-to-find products is their excellence,”Éric Bazile, president of the Fruit and Vegetable Association of the Lot et Garonne (AIFLG) emphasizes.

 “Some of the most important requirements for the label are that they can only be picked at optimal ripeness and must have a tested sugar level, meaning that they will both look and taste great!”

The label should cheer things up for a sector that had a terrible year last year. “Labelling a fourth variety of strawberry should be a great boost to our sector in the coming year,” Éric Bazile explains. “We’re hoping for an excellent 2021 to help everyone forget 2020.”

It is true that with production down by 27% compared to 2019, the whole sector was hard hit in 2020. The reason was that the first lockdown coincided with the beginning of the harvest, so there was a dearth of experienced agricultural workers.

The Lot et Garonne produces some 15,000 tons of strawberries a year, representing one third of France’s production overall, and generating total revenue of approximately €100 million. Mariguettes account for about 1,000 tons a year.

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