After seven years of filing applications for the grant of geographical indication (GI) recognition for basmati rice, the Chennai-based GI registry on Tuesday granted the coveted tag to the commerce ministry’s wing Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (Apeda).
Apeda has been given the GI tag as the sole custodian of basmati rice grown in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Last month, the Chennai-based Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) had asked the GI registry to grant GI certification to Apeda while allowing stakeholders from Madhya Pradesh to submit fresh documents for inclusion in the basmati grown areas.
Sources told FE that GI protection in India would lead to similar recognition in other countries, including the European Union (EU) and the US, which implies that India’s competitors would be barred from using the ‘basmati’ tag. In the absence of GI for basmati rice, many private companies had been trying to register their products under the title, which commands a premium in the global market.
Basmati rice from the Indo-Gangetic plain, which includes the Punjab province of Pakistan, has a special aroma attributable to it. India commands an 85% share in global basmati trade at present. Following the GI notification, farmers in 77 districts of seven states — Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir — would now get the benefit.
In 2008, Apeda had applied to the GI registry asking for exclusive (commercial) use of the ‘basmati’ tag for grain varieties grown within the boundaries of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Subsequently, India and Pakistan had initiated steps to register basmati under GI as ‘joint heritage’ for protecting its premium market abroad. But that bid did not fructify due to opposition within Pakistan.
Last month, the IPAB bench has also dismissed a plea by the Basmati Growers Association (BGA), Pakistan, which was joined as a party in the case. “It is for the BGA to agitate their rights and establish their claims before the High Court of Sindh at Karachi. The appellant, without taking steps to substantiate their claim in respect of Basmati rice in their country, namely Pakistan, there is no justification for them to intervene and interfere in the proceedings initiated by Apeda in respect of getting GI tag for basmati rice covering the areas within the territory of India as specified in the maps filed along with the GI application”, the IPAB had noted.
India’s basmati rice exports, which had touched a record R29,000 crore in 2013-14, fell to R27,600 crore in 2014-15, due to a decline in shipments to Iran. In the first three quarters of the current fiscal, the country has exported R17,588 crore of basmati rice against R20,455 crore worth of shipment during the same period in the previous fiscal.
According to official data, more than 237 products have got GI certification for preserving their uniqueness.