India, Pakistan spar over GI tag for Basmati rice

By: | Published: January 8, 2015 12:36 AM

India's fight to protect its iconic Basmati rice outside the country, especially in Pakistan, would...

India’s fight to protect its iconic Basmati rice outside the country, especially in Pakistan, would be in jeopardy if it does not get the geographical indicator (GI) tag in its own country without further delay, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) has argued.

Basmati rice growers in Pakistan reportedly have Basmati GI tag partially registered in their country and a litigation was going on in a Pakistan court between them and India’s Apeda over the GI tag given to Basmati rice from Pakistan.

In India, the application for GI tag for Basmati rice has been mired in legal tangle with Madhya Pradesh government upping the ante against the Apeda’s move to register GI tag without including the state.

The ongoing litigation in bodies such as GI Registry and Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has taken a long time and was threatening to weaken the case, as close to 700 to 800 proceedings are pending across various countries. In IPAB too, Pakistan’s Basmati Growers’ Association (BGA) has appealed against granting of GI tag to Indian Basmati rice.

Apeda, under the Union commerce ministry, told the IPAB bench that the delay in the proceedings was hampering the country’s prospects of protecting the rice variety as Pakistan has moved the GI dispute tribunal against granting of GI tag to Basmati rice, arguing that those historical geographies of Basmati rice producing areas, are now part of Pakistan.

When the case came up at IPAB, the counsel for Apeda requested for an early hearing in the case as they are in a hurry to get the final order.

“We have to first get the GI tag for Basmati rice in India, so that we can effectively counter Pakistan and other countries who are throwing challenges against our Basmati rice variety,” the counsel said.

After hearing Apeda, Pakistan Basmati Growers Association, Madhya Pradesh government, the farmers and a new organisation, who wanted to implead in the case, the IPAB bench of Justice KN Basha, chairman and Sanjeev Kumar Chaswal, technical member, adjourned the matter to February last week.

The Bhopal-based New Darpan Social Welfare Society had filed an implead application, seeking to be included as a party to the proceedings.

The Lahore-based BGA had also moved IPAB in appeal against the order of the assistant registrar of GI Registry that ordered inclusion of Madhya Pradesh in the amended application by Apeda. BGA had also opposed granting of GI tag to Indian Basmati rice in totality.

BGA had submitted that Basmati is a name for a slender, aromatic and long grain variety of rice grown in the specific geographical area at the foothills of the Himalayas in Pakistan. It further argued in the appeal that only the rice grown in certain areas of Punjab in Pakistan, where the rice kernels are grown on conventional rice lands and they interact with the environment, atmosphere, soil and climate to yield exquisite rice can be called Basmati in the true sense.

The counsel for BGA told FE that they have also appealed against the inclusion of Madhya Pradesh in the areas for registration of GI tag for Basmati in India.

Apeda had filed an application with the GI Registry to register the name Basmati for rice covering Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and part of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, omitting the state of Madhya Pradesh, triggering protest from the farmers from the state as well as opposition from the state government.

They informed the assistant registrar of the GI Registry that the non-inclusion of Madhya Pradesh in the Basmati growing area would have an adverse affect on the lives of farmers who are mainly depending upon Basmati cultivation and its exports.

Accordingly, GI Registry, asked Apeda to amend its application for GI registration of Basmati rice to include the uncovered area, including certain area in Madhya Pradesh. Against this, Apeda has approached IPAB with an appeal against the order of assistant registrar of the GI Registry, issued on December 31, 2013, which allowed the opposition by various parties, including the department of farmer welfare and agriculture development of MP, Madhya Kshetra Basmati Growers Association Samiti based in Raisen district among others against the application of Apeda.

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