Sales of São Jorge cheese, the PDO product Denomination of Protected Origin of the Azores, is on the rise and has set out to conquer the world on several continents. A trend towards stronger demand for consumption is also being followed internally.
Although LactAçores, a union of Azorean dairy cooperatives in the different islands of the archipelago, did not reveal the sales figures, Nailah Tayob, responsible for the export of this entity, told the Economic Journal that sales of São Jorge PDO cheese increased by 16 , 5% last year in value, 15% in volume, compared to 2016. Which means that the unit price of this gastronomic product is increasing.
"In some cures of the cheese, next year the price will be increased, especially in prolonged cures, given the shortage of the product," explains Nailah Tayob, in statements to Jornal Económico.
And speaking of export, the main markets for the foreign destination of São Jorge cheese, in terms of larger quantities, are the United States, Canada and Macao. "The cheese [de São Jorge] is gaining ground in international markets because they are beginning to recognize quality in Portuguese products. And because it is a PDO, it ends up being looked for, "says Nailah Tayob. She adds that "in the domestic market, the fact that it is being communicated by LactAçores and with the help of the dissemination through the chefs, São Jorge PDO cheese is becoming more and more fashionable."
LactAçores, which exclusively markets São Jorge cheese for the four corners of the planet, presented this regional product a few weeks ago, in the continent, in Castanheira do Ribatejo, in an event that had the purpose of boosting and sensitizing the importance of this product in the regional economy and national gastronomic heritage.
The initiative was attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, Luís Capoulas Santos; the Regional Secretary for Agriculture and Forests, João Ponte; the mayor of Vila Franca de Xira, Alberto Mesquita, among other political leaders, as well as chef Vítor Sobral and professionals in the dairy industry and representatives of the large distribution.
Uniqueijo groups eight cooperatives
More particularly, this São Jorge DOP cheese is the result of the work of Uniqueijo, which groups eight cooperatives with 129 producers, employs 95 employees and produces more than 15 million liters of milk.
São Jorge DOP cheese is a traditional and highly appreciated product, usually with seven months of cure, obtained from raw cow's milk.
Produced exclusively on the island of São Jorge since it was discovered (XV century), it owes its specificity to the characteristics of the abundant pastures in the middle and high altitude zones, besides the expertise and knowledge of the jorgenses cheesemakers.
It is relevant to say that the cheeses of São Jorge have a varied range, with several types of cures, and can go up to a maximum of 90 days.
In 1986, the Demarcated Cheese Region of São Jorge was created and the regulation of the protected designation of origin (PDO) registration was granted to the Cheese of São Jorge brand.
Identification of Lactators
Founded in 2004, LactAçores is formed by cooperatives representing each island of the Azorean archipelago, among them Uniqueijo (São Jorge), C.A.L.F (Faial), Unileite (São Miguel) and Milk Mountain (Pico).
LactAçores sells mainly milk, cream, cheese and butter, through distribution of its products, storage and logistical support, working in total with 1,113 producers, 569 employees and 238.5 million liters of milk.
Among the brands marketed by LactAçores are Nova Azores, Topo, Moledo, São Miguel, Ilha Azul, Famoso, MicMac, Lourais and Capelinhos, besides the aforementioned São Jorge PDO.
The logistics platform of the company is in mainland Portugal, in Castanheira do Ribatejo, Vila Franca de Xira, near Lisbon, with a capacity of 800 tons of cheese and butter and nine million liters of milk.