“It is a question of intangible cultural legacy of India. The creation of Pakistan was on the basis of rejection of the Indian identity, history and culture. Else, why Partition? Hence, one is free to grow what one wants in Pakistan, but cannot use the trademark basmati,” Sharma said in a tweet.
The two countries are the only global exporters of basmati.“(India) has caused all this fuss over there so they can somehow grab one of our target markets,” said Murtaza, whose fields are barely five kilometres (three miles) from the Indian border. “Our whole rice industry is affected,” he added. From Karachi to Kolkata, basmati is a staple in everyday diets across southern Asia. It is eaten alongside spicy meat and vegetable curries, and is the star of the endlessly varied biryani dishes featured at weddings and celebrations across both countries, which only split following independence from British colonial rule in 1947. They have since fought three full-scale wars, with the latest skirmish in 2019 involving the first cross-border air attacks in nearly 50 years.
Diplomatic relations have been tense for decades and both countries routinely attempt to malign each other on the international stage.
‘Very important market’Pakistan has expanded basmati exports to the EU over the past three years, taking advantage of India’s difficulties meeting stricter European pesticide standards. It now fills two-thirds of the region’s approximately 300,000-tonne annual demand, according to the European Commission. “For us, this is a very, very important market,” says Malik Faisal Jahangir, vice-president of the Pakistan Rice Exporters Association, who claims Pakistani basmati is more organic and “better in quality”. PGI status grants intellectual property rights for products linked to a geographic area where at least one stage of production, processing, or preparation takes place.
Indian Darjeeling tea, coffee from Colombia and several French hams are among the popular products with PGI status.It differs from Protected Designation of Origin, which requires all three stages to take place in the concerned region, as in the case of cheeses such as French brie or Italian gorgonzola. Such products are legally guarded against imitation and misuse in countries bound by the protection agreement and a quality recognition stamp allows them to sell for higher prices. India says it did not claim in its application to be the only producer of the distinctive rice grown in the Himalayan foothills, but attaining PGI status would nevertheless grant it this recognition. “India and Pakistan have been exporting and competing in a healthy way in different markets for almost 40 years… I don’t think the PGI will change that,” Vijay Setia, former president of the Indian Rice Exporters Association, told AFP news agency.
Joint heritageAs per EU rules, the two countries must try to negotiate an amicable resolution by September, after India asked for a three-month extension, a spokesman for the European Commission told AFP.
“Historically, both the reputation and geographic area (for basmati) are common to India and Pakistan,” says legal researcher Delphine Marie-Vivien.“There have already been quite a few cases of opposition to geographical indication applications in Europe, and each time a compromise has been found.” After years of procrastination, the Pakistani government in January demarcated where basmati can be harvested in the country. It also announced it would assign similar protected status to pink Himalayan salt and other vaunted agricultural products. Pakistan hopes to convince India to instead submit a “joint application” in the name of the common heritage that basmati represents, Jahangir said. “I am confident that we will reach a (positive) conclusion very soon… the world knows that basmati comes from both countries,” he added.
If an agreement cannot be reached and the EU rules in India’s favour, Pakistan could appeal to the European courts, but the long review process could leave its rice industry in limbo.
Deadline for India, Pakistan to settle the issue amicably expires today
A version of this article appears in print on December 24, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.
The Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO) is looking at items that can be registered as a Geographical Indication (GI), informed Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Trade and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood.“In response to my tweet on Geographical Indication (GI) on rice, many people have raised the possibility of registration of Salt as GI. The Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO) is looking at items which can be registered as GIs,” the advisor said in a tweet post on Friday. The advisor also requested all stakeholders to inform as to what course of action the Ministry of Commerce and IPO should take in case of salt. It is pertinent to inform that Geographical Indications (GIs) are a form of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) which identify a product originating from a specific area, whose quality or reputation is attributable to its place of origin. In Pakistan, Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act, 2020 was enacted in March this year. A significant number of products have potential to be protected under the GI regime in Pakistan including products such as Basmati rice, Kinnow, mango, cutlery, Ajrak, etc. Weeks ago, Pakistan decided to give a befitting reply to India's claim of GI tag to Basmati Rice in the European Union and will file its opposition in the EU. Abdul Razak Dawood categorically stated that Pakistan will vehemently oppose India's application in the European Union and restrain India from obtaining exclusive GI tag of Basmati Rice.
“REAP has taken this step on behalf of rice exporters and farmers of Pakistan who are at the risk of losing a billion-dollars’ worth of income.”
Since 2006, the EU has applied zero tariffs on rice imported into the bloc that has been authenticated by either Pakistani or Indian authorities as genuine basmati. Pakistan has a thriving industry of export of Basmati, making the country one of the top five exporters of rice in the world. REAP said it has previously been involved in developing and revising UK Code of Practice and arranging trade delegations abroad to foster the export of Basmati from Pakistan.
“India had sought protection of its Basmati as a GI product in EU in a mala fide attempt to deter Pakistan’s growing export and appreciation of Basmati.”Pakistan’s export of Basmati to EU has almost doubled in the last five years and it has outpaced India’s exports of the same. The importers and customers in EU appreciate Pakistan’s Basmati more than that of India due to its exotic aroma, sweeter taste and soft texture and above all in terms of food safety including Pesticides which has resulted in increased demand. Basmati, being a centuries old heritage of Pakistan, could not be allowed to be monopolised by India in the European market.
“Such a gross misrepresentation by India on the origins of Basmati is an attack on the values of fair competition among farmers and exporters in EU,” the statement said.Pakistan has a legal right to export Basmati with its original name in accordance with the practice in EU which is decades old. European importers have also raised their objections against the Indian stance, and in support of Pakistan. The statement said REAP is striving for an early legislation on the GI rules in Pakistan along with the Ministry of Commerce.
“It will enable Pakistan’s exporters and farmers of Basmati to prevent their product from being used by the same name in international markets.”REAP said n internally registered GI of Basmati will strengthen Pakistan’s case in the coming legal stages in the EU. REAP remains optimist that Pakistan has strong case as EU recognises the country as authentic basmati growing region. “The protection of Basmati as Pakistan’s indigenous product is crucial to sustain the rice exports, Consequently, REAP is leading the way in this endeavor without any regards to costs.”
According to laid down rules and procedures, any country can oppose the application for registration of an AME pursuant to Article 10 and Article 50(2)(a) of the regulation number 1151 (2012). There is a time limit of three months to file an application against it, so now Pakistan has decided to file an application for opposing the right of exclusivity of India on basmati rice GI tag. Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmad Muhammad Shahi informed that government should not import the vegetables from other countries when domestic corps are ready in the country. He said it would benefit the local farmers. The Committee has recommended the government to impose ban on vegetable imports when domestic crops are ready.
Pakistan Opposes India’s Claim Over Basmati
A Pakistani news website has reported tackling India’s application for the GI tag of basmati in the EU. Further, the decision is said to be taken in a meeting chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood. Secretary Commerce, Chairman, Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO-Pakistan), representatives of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap), and the legal fraternity were also present.
The meeting concluded that India’s claim for basmati exclusivity is unjustified as Pakistan is its major grower. Also, Dawood stated that it would oppose New Delhi from obtaining any exclusive rights. Moreover, Pakistan legalized GI Registration and Protection Act in March this year. This gives it the right to challenge India’s claim for GI tag for basmati rice.
Fine Aromatic Long rice is Authentic to IndiaPublished in an official journal of EU on 11th September, India’s application highlights that basmati is an Indian origin product. Further, it added that this special long grain aromatic rice is authentic to the geographical region of the Indian sub-continent. This region is part of northern India, below the foothills of the Himalayas. Though Pakistan produces and exports a wide range of basmati from the country, basmati of particular characteristic grows only in districts of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and also in some parts of UP and Jammu and Kashmir. In a notification dated 10th August, the DGFT deferred the requirement for EIC to export to the EU till 1st Jan 2021. In all, Pakistan has vehemently opposed India’s claim over the origin of basmati.
India is also registering Himalayan salt, Multani mitti with Indian names in the international market
The issue is sensitive for the MP chief minister, especially in the light of the coming bypolls in the state's farming zoneThe contentious issue of whether basmati rice grown in Madhya Pradesh should be eligible for the GI tag, just like the kind grown in the foothills of Himalayas, has once again reared its head with state chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan writing a series of letters opposing his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh’s views on the matter. The Madhya Pradesh government has also decided to approach the Supreme Court to challenge an order by the Madras High Court rejecting the state’s claim over the GI tag for basmati grown on its soil. The Madras High Court gave its decision on two petitions; one filed by the state government and the other by a basmati rice growers’ association in the state. Several observers and experts are also linking MP’s belligerence to the coming bypolls to the 27 vacant assembly seats, something which will decide the fate of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. As most of the seats in the bypolls fall in the Gwalior-Chambal region, which is predominantly a farming zone, many feel Chouhan is in no mood to compromise in the matter for fear of being branded anti-farmer. This, in fact, was a tag that the opposition Congress successfully managed to stick on him, causing his defeat in the last assembly elections in MP. Madhya Pradesh’s argument Basmati rice in the state is largely grown in and around the 13 districts of Morena, Bhind, Sheopur, Gwalior, Datia, Shivpuri, Guna, Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore, Hoshangabad, Narsinghpur and Jabalpur. An estimated 80,000-100,000 farmers cultivate the crop in these areas in over 200,000 hectares of land, as per the state government’s assessment. Madhya Pradesh contends that it has historical records since 1908 of basmati production in the 13 districts and has records of supplying seeds to farmers in MP in the year 1944 by the erstwhile Scindia State. It also argues that the Indian Institute of Rice Research, Hyderabad, had recorded production of basmati rice in MP in its Production Oriented Survey Report for the past 25 years. "Basmati exporters in Punjab and Haryana are procuring the rice from MP. This is also supported by Government of India data of export from the Mandideep industrial area in Madhya Pradesh," Chouhan recently tweeted. The GI tag is for PUSA-1 and PUSA-1121 basmati rice varieties cultivated in Madhya Pradesh. Apart from Punjab, other states that already have GI tagging for basmati include Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, western UP, and select districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Punjab and exporters' contention Basmati is among the top three agricultural exports from India and has consistently been a show-stopper, irrespective of global market dynamics. In 2019-20, India exported around 4.45 million tonnes of of the grain, valued at over Rs 31,000 crore. Basmati’s long-aromatic grain, smooth texture and special qualities has over the last several decades made it one of the most adorable and signature food items of India. The Central government, along with the states, has fought a long legal and diplomatic battle to retain the specificity and uniqueness of Indian basmati rice amid stiff competition from neighbouring Pakistan, which has long claimed that the crop grown on its soil is the real basmati. Exporters say granting the GI tag to basmati grown in Madhya Pradesh districts will lower its value in the international market and give a window to Pakistan to strengthen its claim over the variety grown in its territory, impacting India’s marketability and premium. “If someone starts growing Darjeeling tea in Chennai will it command the same price as the original grown in the Darjeeling valley. A GI tag or certification is the region-specific identity of a product. No one can simply grow the same crop in some other place and claim it to be the same as original. However, it might be near to the original one,” a leading basmati rice exporter said. He said expanding the GI tag to basmati grown in Madhya Pradesh will diminish its international market and lead to fall in the premium it commands over other rice varieties. Whether or not Madhya Pradesh deserves a GI tag for the basmati grown in its state is now to be decided by the country’s highest Court of Law. But as it deliberates on the matter, getting a GI in itself is cumbersome and many times controversial and tricky in India. This probably explains why India has less than 500 GI-certified items, despite having one of the world’s most diverse agriculture produce and culinary items. Problems of getting GI tag in India Be it ‘Basmati Rice’, or ‘Darjeeling Tea’ or ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’, getting Geographical Indication tag (GI) for items exclusive to India has long been a contentious issue. Though, the GI Act that commenced from 2003 (Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999) has brought much-needed transparency and clarity into the entire field, but experts said a lot of confusion and complications originates primarily due to lack of quality control once the tag is obtained and also limited hand-holding prior to applications are made to the Registrar that leads to half-baked attempts to seek a GI certification. Darjeeling tea became the first GI tagged product in India, in 2004–05, since then over 300 goods had been added to the list. India’s vast and vibrant agricultural and food varieties along with inter-regional variations also make it a ‘nightmare’ while applying for GI. Experts said a big factor in granting a GI tag for any product is ‘public perception’ about the same. This is easier for products which are associated with a particular area like Darjeeling Teas, or Champagne of France, but when it comes to generic items like Pashmina which is not usually associated with a particular area or region by the virtue of its name, granting a GI becomes highly challenging. GI Act and its implementation in India is relatively new – it started from 2003 onwards – while in other countries the concept has been in existence since long. The other big challenge in getting GI in India, experts said is the improper filing and lack of proper knowledge which sometimes leads to half-baked applications being filed increasing their chance of rejection by competent authorities. In India there are no provisions for quality control in the GI Act once GIs are registered, which is why there is a proliferation of applications in India. In Europe, one of the pivotal issues is quality control. Once a product is granted GI, there is little possibility of fakes, which is not the case in India. A GI tag brings its own brand equity for the product and it commands a premium in the market, but to get that a lot of background work needs to go into before a formal application is made, something which is absent in India leading to higher number of rejections. A case in point is ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’ which failed to get the GI tag as the applicant could not prove the historical origin and data relating to the dish with supporting documents. The application was filed by Deccani Biryani Makers Association (DBMA) a few years back. "The existing GI tribunal order has not been implemented in letter and spirit. The existing application and grant of GI of Basmati contains a number of glitches. In the interest of the nation, there is a requirement to review the entire matter based on ‘GI principles’ without going into the subject whether MP or any other area is to be included and examination of subject just not based on selective references and interpretations," S Chandrasekaran, trade policy analyst and author of the book Basmati Rice - The Natural History Geographical Indications, told Business Standard. Table: Basmati rice exports from India
|Year||Quantity (million Tonnes)||Value (Rs crore)|
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