GI Tag for Basmati Rice Controversy between India & Pakistan

India will continue to pursue its application for an exclusive Geographical Indication (GI) tag for its basmati rice in the European Union (EU) and not consider any other solution as it could affect the exclusivity of the fragrant rice in other markets, official sources have said.

What is the historical background of the issue?

It all started when India registered its Basmati Rice GI in the European market, which has been countered by Pakistan. An official release by the European Union on September 11, 2020, notified India’s application for getting the geographical indication for its Basmati Rice in the EU market. The release also indicated that in the next three months, any entity, which objects to this application, can oppose it in the EU.

On 7th December 2020, the application received opposition from Pakistan, when its rice association, Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) filed a notice with EU authorities. To further strengthen its case of opposition, Pakistan registered its Basmati Rice under its Geographical Indication Act 2020 on January 27, 2021. The case is still pending with no conclusion being reached. 

What is GI tag?

Under the TRIPS agreement, Geographical indication (GI), is defined as an indication of the true geographical origin of products, with reputation, quality, or other characteristics of that product attributable to the origin. Countries issue GI tags to their products under the law, in order to protect the product from imitation and misuse of its registered name. In India, the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act came into force in 2003.

What is the present issue?

Exports of rice are of importance to both India and Pakistan. Pakistan’s Punjab, in which all of its ‘Basmati Rice’ (as claimed by it) production is located, also lies in the Indo-Gangetic Plains. India is the largest supplier of Basmati Rice, exporting 5.5 million tons of Basmati Rice to the world in 2020. Its production is spread across Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Western UP and parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan wants to convince India for ‘joint recognition’ as the heritage is shared by both the countries.
EU is trying to put pressure on India to amend its application by including the basmati­ growing areas in Pakistan or submit a new joint application.

Why India is against this?

India cannot accept the EU’s proposal. In August 2020, after the abrogation of Article 370, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan published a map showing Jammu as part of its territory. When a joint application is made, the map of both countries will have to be included. This will mean India accepting Jammu to be part of Pakistan.

Further, Pakistan is yet to come up with any definition of basmati. It has no physical standard and has not notified the DNA standard. 

Note: APEDA, is the nodal agency to get GI tag for Indian products.

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