Pakistan businessmen have raised fears over losing GI tagging of Basmati rice. Image Credit: Youtube screengrab

Islamabad: Pakistan has decided to challenge India’s claim of exclusive rights over the use of Geographical Indication (GI) tag to Basmati rice in the European Union (EU).

A parliamentary panel on Commerce and Trade was informed this week that India had applied for tagging of Basmati rice in the EU market. Pakistan is preparing its application objecting to the Indian application and will submit it soon, said the Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) Chairman Mujeeb Ahmed Khan.

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The Indian application describes the Basmati rice as an Indian origin product despite the fact that similar rice is widely produced in Pakistan, Ahmed said. “Pakistan would challenge the claim” as he claimed India had distorted facts in its application and its case was based on weak grounds. Basmati is currently recognised as a product of both Pakistan and India under the European Regulation 2006.

Businessmen raise alarm

Pakistani officials pursued the case after the business community highlighted the issue and urged the government to apply for GI tag for Pakistani Basmati rice immediately. They raised fears over losing premium tag of Basmati rice to India which would be “disastrous for Pakistani exporters and producers” as they would not be allowed to sell the long grain rice under the brand name of Basmati.

“Pakistan exports 500,000 to 700,000 tonnes of basmati rice to various countries”, the bulk of which goes to European countries. “Pakistani rice is preferred over India’s” in Europe because of its flavour and aroma, said the Chairman of Cereal Association of Pakistan, Muzammil Chappal.

Pakistan and GI tag laws

Pakistan recently enacted the geographical indication (GI) law for registration and protection of brands after nearly two decades of deliberation. The legal protection was introduced to keep local goods from commercial misuse, to combat counterfeiting and promote Made in Pakistan products in global markets.

Why was the law enacted?

Pakistan enacted Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act in March 2020 to protect Pakistani brands and ensure premium prices for country’s indigenous products in foreign markets.

“The Geographical Indications (GI) Law will protect our local products like Peshawari chappal, Multani blue pottery, Hunza apricots, Hala Ajrak, Chaman grapes, Turbat Dates, Kasuri methi and many other such products” Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood said earlier. The policy will prevent misuse of trademarks and help Pakistan “get premium prices for our indigenous products in the international market” that are mostly sold without branding of the country of origin.