India’s basmati rice exports, which is expected to touch a record Rs 21,000 crore in 2013-14. It is also a fact that helped by corporate farming, basmati cultivation has increased manifold in Madhya Pradesh in the last five years, with production hitting 4 lakh tonnes in 2012-13.
Madhya Kshetra basmati Growers Association Samiti and a leading basmati rice exporter, LT Foods, along with Madhya Pradesh’s department of farmer welfare and agriculture development, had approached the GI Registry jointly.
Meanwhile, a group of agricultural scientists has also opposed Madhya Pradesh’s attempt to be included in basmati-growing regions, saying it would adversely impact the ‘quality’ of basmati rice and sully its global repute. “Claiming rice grown in Madhya Pradesh as basmati is not correct as we have developed seed varieties keeping in mind agro-climatic zones of the Indo-Gangetic plain,” said KV Prabhu, deputy director, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), and a well-known rice breeder.
Prabhu said the higher temperature prevailing in Madhya Pradesh compared with northern states impacts the aroma and grain quality, which is a key quality of basmati rice. During 2008-10, 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 to it within Pakistan.
In the absence of GI, many private companies have been unsuccessfully trying to register their products as ‘basmati’, which commands a premium in the global market. The IARI has developed Pusa 1121 basmati rice variety, which is grown in more than 60% of basmati rice areas.
The products with a reputation attributable to its place of origin or the area where it is manufactured and have GI protection in India include Darjeeeling tea, Kancheepuram silk and Mysore agarbatti. More than 110 products have got GI registration in the country. GI protection needs to be taken first in the home country and subsequently in other countries (where it is exported to) and would come in useful in bolstering sales.