Govt urged to apply for GI tag with EU

Traders say Pakistan will not be able to sell rice under basmati brand if India gets it

Usman Hanif September 19, 2020

Businessmen have urged the government to apply for geographical indication (GI) tag with the European Union for Pakistani basmati rice immediately citing that India has applied for the same.

They voiced fear that once the neighbouring country receives it, Pakistani exporters would not be allowed to sell the aromatic rice under the brand name of basmati.

India has applied for GI tag in European Union for basmati rice, confirmed a report in the EU official journal.

EU publishes the information on its website so that if a country intends to oppose the application, it can submit request within a specific time.

After a delay of almost two decades, Pakistan recently enacted the geographical indication (GI) law for registration and protection of brands, which is still awaiting implementation.

India claimed in the application that long grain basmati rice is grown and produced in districts of the states of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and a few districts of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the neighbouring country did not mention that the same rice is also grown in parts of Pakistan.

If India receives the GI tag, it would trigger a disastrous situation for Pakistani businessmen who would not be able to sell the same rice under the name of basmati.

"Pakistan exports 500,000 to 700,000 tonnes of basmati rice to various countries," said Cereal Association of Pakistan Chairman Muzammil Chappal. "Out of that, 200,000 to 250,000 tonnes is shipped to European countries."

Although the European Union gives Pakistan preference over India but still the country is unable to make the most out of it.

He added that around two to three years ago, the European countries slapped a ban on Indian basmati rice after the pesticide residue level on it was found to be way more than the allowed threshold.

Due to the high quality of Pakistani rice, the country often receives premium price in European markets, he said.

The European Union is a massive destination for local rice exporters and if India succeeds in receiving the GI tag, it would trigger huge trouble for local exporters, he said.

"It is a crucial issue for Pakistan but the government is still inactive," said Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (Unisame) President Zulfikar Thaver.

"We urge Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood to take immediate notice of India's move and motivate the country to apply for GI tag without loss of any more time," said Thaver.

Describing the procedure, he said the adviser and Commerce Secretary Muhammad Sauleh Faruqui need to push the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to expedite the application for the basmati tag with EU.

"The EU market has vast opportunities and the basmati rice exporters cannot afford to lose it," he said. "Pakistani basmati rice is superior to Indian basmati."

Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2020.

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