‘If the impression is created that it only originates from India, then our exports will definitely take a hit’Fearful of breathing a word that could impact Pakistan’s case in court, they refuse to consider any possibility that the country will not emerge victoriously. And they have every reason to believe so. On condition of anonymity, a source in the know gave an example of evidence that Pakistan has to support its claim for basmati rice. In 2006-2007, a case was filed in the Sindh High Court by a local basmati growers association for domestic GI ownership of basmati rice. The claim was contested by the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) asserting state ownership and hence in the hands of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). India’s Apeda became a party to the suit as well. This is significant because it gave us tacit documentation that India accepts Pakistan’s claim of growing the premium rice in our region as well which can be used to contest our rival’s current application in the EU. “It is all about branding for the customer. If the impression is created that basmati rice only originates from India, then our exports will definitely take a hit,” says Yasir Shafi, director of Shafi Gluco Chem, an exporter of rice’s value-added products. “Pakistan’s basmati rice is priced on the higher side because of EU’s pesticide restrictions that edge Indian exports out. Rice is the largest export after textiles. Going forward, the current account deficit may go up again and the rupee will depreciate. We cannot continue to rely on the International Monetary Fund for support. TDAP needs to be more proactive to support exports,” he says. A source in the know agreed that the government has always been reactive and acts on a need basis. While Reap’s application for GI tagging has been languishing for two decades, it has speeded up in the last few years. “In the past, India has said that Pakistan’s basmati is not original, it is a hybrid of two or three different seeds,” says Dr Manzoor Ahmed, former ambassador to WTO talking about his tenure. “We contested it; the case was fought in Brussels and amicably settled in around 2004.” While the purpose at that time was duty-free access and not GI tagging, the European community accepted Pakistan’s claim of basmati. Talking about the process, Dr Ahmed explains that domestic legislation needs to be in place first, defining what is basmati rice and the regions within Pakistan that it is grown. Only then we can go to the EU to contest India’s assertions. While GI law exists in Pakistan, the nuts and bolts are not in place. When questioned about the progress, the Reap’s chairman Abdul Qayum Paracha chose not to comment owing to the sensitivity of the issue, begging the question whether sufficient progress has been made in a law that has been languishing for two decades. Another problem waiting in the wings is provincial politics once GI tagging is in place. A source confirmed that while stakeholders are holding hands and cooperating at the moment, a tiff between the two rice-growing provinces Sindh and Punjab may be brewing. The impression generally is of bated breaths and hope. If India wins, not only will it affect Pakistan’s roughly half a billion dollar exports to Europe, it may start a domino reaction impacting Middle East markets. Given the decades of evidence of Pakistan’s claim as growers of the aromatic rice, however, there is every reason to believe that the worst-case scenario will remain in the realm of nightmares for the rice sector. Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 2nd, 2020
Islamabad to file opposition against New Delhi claim of geographical indication to have exclusivity on Basmati rice in EUISLAMABAD Pakistan announced it will file an opposition against India's claim of geographical indication (GI) tag for Basmati rice in the EU, state-run media reported on Tuesday. A geographical indication is a sign used for products with a specific geographical origin, possessing qualities or reputation essentially based on natural and human factors of their place of origin. The decision was made in a meeting chaired by Abdul Razak Dawood, the prime minister's advisor for commerce, at the capital Islamabad, according to Radio Pakistan. The meeting was attended by the commerce secretary, chairman of Intellectual Property Organization, representatives of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, and government's legal advisors. "Pakistan will vehemently oppose India’s application in the EU and restrain India from obtaining exclusive GI tag of Basmati rice," Radio Pakistan quoted Dawood as saying. The minister ensured the rice exporters to protect their claim of GI for Basmati rice. Exporters informed the minister that Pakistan is a major grower and producer of Basmati rice and that New Delhi's not right in its claim of exclusivity. According to media reports, New Delhi had applied for GI tag in the EU for basmati rice on Sept. 11, claiming exclusivity on it. India in its application had claimed that basmati rice has an Indian origin although the same type of rice is largely produced in Pakistan, local daily The News quoted a Pakistani official as saying. In 2006, the EU under its special rules recognized basmati as a joint product of Pakistan and India. Pakistan exports 500,000-700,000 tons of basmati rice to different parts of the world out of which 200,000 to 250,000 tons are being shipped to EU countries, according to the Pakistani Commerce Ministry data.
Businessmen raise alarm
Pakistan and GI tag laws
Why was the law enacted?
Leading Pakistani rice exporters have called on the government to immediately oppose the Indian application
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