Pakistani businessmen puzzled as EU approves plea stating basmati rice is ‘Indian-origin’ product

Pakistan exports face devastation as India is set to register for an exclusive GI tags for Himalayan salt, Multani mitti under Indian brand names in the international market.

Pakistan GI law

As Pakistan lags behind in implementation of the Geographical Indications (GI) law implemented in March, India has already applied for an exclusive GI tag for Basmati rice in the European Union (EU), reported Profit Pakistan Today.

The EU has approved India’s application in its official journal last week, now stating that Basmati rice is an Indian origin product, even though the same rice is produced in Pakistan at a large scale.

Pakistan’s exports to European countries under threat from India

Ministry of Commerce officials, when contacted, were unaware of this groundbreaking development which could immensely damage Pakistan’s exports to European countries, Basmati rice being a case in point. Abdul Razak Dawood adviser to the Prime Minister (PM) on Commerce had earlier in August directed officials to implement and apply the GI as the law had been implemented over five months ago.

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India, to support its claim of exclusivity, has referred to various reports and dictionaries to show that the basmati rice is of Indian origin and conveniently left out the part that the same rice is widely produced in Pakistan.

According to leading rice exporter and former official of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) Taufiq Ahmed, the Indian application at EU must be immediately opposed as it could devastate Pakistan’s exports to European nations.

Pakistan must address the issues of the GI law immediately 

Authorities have been ignoring the issue despite multiple requests and reminders. Taufiq explained that if Pakistan does not handle the issue immediately, Pakistani producers will be forced to sell basmati rice under an Indian brand name.

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“Apart from opposing the GI tag from the EU, Pakistan must also consult international dictionaries to rectify the definition as the same rice is largely produced in Pakistan. Unfortunately, India is also registering Himalayan salt and Multani Matti with Indian names in the international market,” he added.

According to an official at Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO), an attached department of the Ministry of Commerce which drafted the GI law, the Indian application would definitely be opposed in the EU. Officials say that Basmati rice was stated as a product of both Pakistan and India in the European Rice Regime and Duty-Free Regime, hence, making India’s claim for exclusive rights of Basmati in the EU unlawful.

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“The Cambridge dictionary and Wikipedia also show the product as originating from Pakistan and India,” he added. The GI law is aimed at increasing exports, development in rural areas of the country, revenue of agricultural producers and other skilled labour.

World Trade Organisation (WTO) members need to give protection to GIs as per Article 22-24 of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement. Unless Pakistan undertakes the protection of GI it will not be able to obtain the same protection for its goods and exports in other countries implementing and protecting the GI law. The GI law entails industrial, agricultural, and horticultural products and many others.

GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources

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