India soon to get its sole right to the GI tag Basmati Rice to sell off to EU

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Chennai: India will likely walk away with the sole right to the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Basmati rice in the European Union (EU) after the deadline for settling the issue with Pakistan expired on September 10, experts reported.

The sole right to the GI tags Basmati Rice will give New Delhi exclusive rights to market the fragrant rice in the EU as “Basmati” rice and deter other countries, mainly Pakistan, from selling the food grain as “Basmati”.

“The current technical circumstances firmly indicate India would emerge victorious in the Basmati GI tag case at the European Commission,” said S Chandrasekaran, a trade analyst and author of the book Basmati Rice: The Natural History Geographical Indication.

One of the key issues pointed in favour of India is that Pakistan has only filed its opposition to granting the GI tag to India and not an application for the exclusive indication tag.

According to the experts, Pakistan is playing a losing game, which would mean a victory of sorts for the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), which holds the GI tag, and has been fighting India’s cause in the international forum.

India and the EU have begun further talks for a free trade agreement and a pact is likely to be signed soon, and  India would get the GI tag from the Union at the earliest.

On September 11, 2020, the EU issued a notification of India’s application seeking a GI tag for its Basmati rice. Parties, including nations, opposing the application had time till December 10 to file objections. Pakistan utilised the time to file its opposition to granting the GI tag. After that, India and Pakistan had six months’ time to amicably settle the issue but it did not happen. New Delhi then sought a further extension of time that expired on September 10.

In its application for the GI tag, India wanted the long-grain fragrant rice to be treated as a product originating from seven of its States. It sought exclusive rights for itself to sell Basmati in the territories of the EU members. Pakistan opposed giving exclusive rights to India, contending that its farmers are also growing the variety. The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan filed its objection to giving exclusive rights to India for selling Basmati in the EU.

Indian Basmati, historically, has commanded a premium of $200 a tonne over the Pakistan variety. The premium is also based on the import duty derogation offered by the European Commission to Pakistan.

Lahore-based Basmati Growers Association, which is funded by the Pakistan government, took part in India’s domestic GI registration process. But it failed to file evidence (of growing Basmati traditionally) within the time prescribed to challenge petitions on GI registration by the Indian Patent Office. Nor has India’s GI tag been challenged by the World Trade Organization.

Pakistan’s GI Act has inconsistencies that do not allow interested parties to contest claims against such registration. In comparison, India’s registration of Basmati as its GI product has been through a transparent process following well-laid-down policy and procedures.

These are also viewed as reasons why the EU may grant India the GI tag for Basmati rice.

Basmati contributed $4.06 million (₹29,849 crores) to the export basket last fiscal. It’s per unit value at $868 (₹63,575) per tonne was more than double that of non-Basmati rice whose value was $366 (₹26,800). During the April-July period of the current fiscal, India exported 1.43 mt of Basmati rice valued at ₹8,975 crores compared with 1.68 mt valued at ₹11,342 crores. The per-unit value this fiscal is ₹846 a tonne.