THE CONTEXT: India has applied to the European Union for protected geographical indication (PGI) status of basmati rice. Pakistan has opposed this move.
- India, the world’s largest exporter of basmati rice, has applied for protected geographical indication (PGI) status from the European Union’s Council on Quality Schemes for Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs.
- This would give it sole ownership of the basmati title in the EU.
- Pakistan, which is the only other basmati rice exporter in the world, has opposed this move as it would adversely impact its own exports, especially as the EU is a major market for its basmati.
Where does basmati actually grow?
- In India, historically, the long-grained, aromatic rice has been cultivated in Indo-Gangetic plains at the foothills of the Himalayas.
- In modern India, this region is spread over Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
- Basmati has also been grown for centuries in the Kalar tract, which lies between the Ravi and Chenab rivers in Pakistan’s Punjab province
Why does the basmati title need protection?
- Given the high premium that basmati, an export-oriented product, fetches in the international market, there have been frequent disputes over granting the protected status to rice that may have been bred from basmati varieties and has the same qualities, but isn’t grown in the historical basmati-growing belt.
- In India, for example, the Madhya Pradesh government has been lobbying the central government for its basmati rice varieties to be granted the GI status, even taking the matter to the Supreme Court.
- The All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA) is opposed to this, on the basis that it compromises basmati’s integrity.
- The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) itself had stated that GI status is strongly linked to a particular geographical region.
- Based on this, AIREA has argued that granting MP’s request would open the door to other regions within India as well as rival rice exporters like China and Pakistan to grow basmati varieties anywhere in their territories, thus diluting the power of the basmati brand.
ABOUT PROTECTED GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION
- Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) is a status awarded by the European Commission that protects and promotes named regional food products that have a reputation or noted characteristics specific to that area.
- The PGI framework was launched by the EU in 1993 offering legal protection to recognised products against imitation across the EU.
- It acts in the same way as a Trade Mark, preventing manufacturers from outside a region imitating a regional product.
- Being awarded the status demonstrates that the product is produced and processed to agreed standards and specifications recognised at EU level, and that the product has a defined regional connection.
- The PGI status prevents unfair competition and the misleading of consumers by non-genuine products which may be of inferior quality or different flavor.
- Objectives of PGI:
- Protect the reputation of the regional food product
- Promote rural and agricultural activity
- Help producers to obtain a premium price for their authentic products in return for a “genuine effort to improve quality”
- Communicate clear messages to consumers about product origin
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