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Indo-Pak face to face over G.I. tag

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By: Alee khan

Basmati is a great variety of rice. The dispute about its identity came to the fore two decades ago between a US-based company RiceTech and Indo-Pak. India and Pakistan stood together in this dispute and forced the American company to return the patents. But, this time India and Pakistan are face to face with regards to the G.I. tag of Basmati rice. India applied for G.I. tag to its Basmati rice in the European Union (EU) and this information came out in the official published journal by the European Union on 11 September 2020. It is said that before the publication of this journal, there was an internal assessment about the G.I. tag for Basmati. As soon as the journal was published by the European Union, the news of Basmati G.I. tag mentioned in it created a stir in Pakistan as Pakistan along with India are the two major Basmati producing countries. In such a situation, if India gets the G.I. tag of Basmati, then it will get its ownership.

With this, the fear that India will grab its market is haunting Pakistan. The fact is that Pakistan has emerged as a major exporter of rice to Europe in the last few years. That’s why Pakistan has stood up against it. In view of this, on 5 October 2020, Pakistan announced that it strongly opposes India’s claim. After that, on 7 December 2020, Pakistan also gave notice against the Indian claim in the European Union.

Actually, the G.I. tag gives information about the country in which a particular thing is produced. It is obvious that by adding the name of a particular country or place to something, its superiority is proven and the country becomes the brand for the distribution and export of that thing. For example, Darjeeling tea and Colombian coffee both are area specific and have been so since registered properly. The full name of G.I. tag is Protected Geographical Indication, which is similar to copyright in a way. Now the question comes that which things get G.I. tag? This tag can be used for many things including agricultural products, handicrafts and manufacturing products. Along with this, G.I. tag can also be taken on any food item, which belongs to a particular region. The need for G.I. tag and the overall purpose of it is to maintain the quality of the goods, to prevent the sale of goods by false claimers as well as to protect the interests of the products and the interests of the consumers.

Indo-Pak are at loggerheads over the G.I. tag of Basmati rice and after the opposition by Pakistan, the way for India to get the G.I. tag for Basmati rice has become difficult now. Pertinently Basmati rice is very important for the economy of both the countries and if we look at the production and export statistics of rice of both the countries since 1990, the figures show that today India is the second in the production of rice and the first in exporting, while Pakistan is the top exporter maintaining its place in 5 countries.

India and Pakistan have a complete monopoly in the production of Basmati rice all over the world. India exports about 65 percent of the world’s basmati, while the rest of the market is occupied by Pakistan. Statistics show, in 2019-20, India sold a total of 44.5 lakh tonnes of Basmati for 31 thousand crores. At the same time, according to the United Nations, Pakistan exports rice worth $ 2.2 billion. Meanwhile, according to Pakistani media organization Dawn, Pakistan exports basmati worth 800 million to one billion dollars. It is clear from the data that India has more reach in the international market. India mostly exports Basmati to Gulf countries, while the demand and access of Pakistani Basmati is very less in Gulf countries. However, Pakistani Basmati is mostly exported to Europe and Australia. Indian Basmati is going to reach the international market to a great extent in the coming time as Basmati is grown in most of the states of India.

The Indian Seeds Act, 1966 mentions 29 varieties of Basmati. However, today 33 types of Basmati are grown across the country and many states of India have got GI tag as well. In May 2010, the Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority of the Government of India gave G.I. tag Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Apart from this, Basmati is grown in different parts of the country, whereas when we talk about Pakistan, only Punjab province gives the maximum produce. In this way, it can be said that India’s side seems to be much stronger than Pakistan.

Understanding the situation, India and Pakistan should come together and talk to resolve this issue and proceed with mutual agreement as this is good for both the countries. If Pakistan makes Basmati a political issue, then it is not going to work. Somewhere Basmati is linked to the interests of foreign companies and in such a situation both the countries will have to avoid making this into a matter of debate. If Pakistan does politics on this too, it will naturally weaken the relationship between the two countries. So it should be understood that this is an industrial issue which should be resolved soon.

The writer is a freelance columnist


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