Ministry looks to register Basmati rice as local brand

Urges cabinet to notify TDAP as registrant body to support case against India

Zafar Bhutta November 08, 2020


India has claimed Basmati rice as its brand in the European Union market, but Pakistan is all set to challenge the claim.

However, it is alarming to note that Pakistan has not registered Basmati as a brand in Pakistan. The Ministry of Commerce has now come into action to register it in the country after India claimed it as its brand in the EU market. More alarming is the fact that there is no body in Pakistan that can register Pakistani products as its brand under Geographical Indications.

In Pakistan, Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act 2020 has been enacted in March this year. However, the year 2020 is nearly over and the commerce ministry has still not been able to register Basmati rice as a Pakistani brand.

When the legal battle between Pakistan and India on Basmati claims intensified, the commerce ministry moved a summary to the cabinet seeking approval for notifying the Trading Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) as “Registrant” body for Geographical Indication registration. This move is aimed at registering Basmati rice as a Pakistani brand to support a case in EU against India.

The Geographical Indications (GIs) are a form of intellectual property rights. They identify a product originating from a specific area, whose quality is attributable to its place of origin. The number of products that have the potential to be protected under the GI tag in Pakistan, include Basmati rice, kinnow, mango, ajrak etc.

Section 11(1) of the GI Act says, “The federal government shall be the exclusive owner of all the geographical indications of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Section 11(2) further elaborates, “The federal government may allow any statutory body, public body, local or provincial governments, government enterprise or any government organisation, person having area of responsibility covering the geographical indication of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to apply for and register the product under geographical indication.”

The “registrant” body is to prepare “Book of Specification” for the GI, approving “authorised users” for further registrations with the relevant division for a cooperation agreement to enable pre-registration processes of geographical indication.

It will also arrange consultations with producers and operators in drafting body. TDAP is a statutory body under the administrative control of the commerce ministry. The government has given it mandate to interact and coordinate with private stakeholders and enhance value of the products to enhance export base of the country.

The commerce ministry has now urged the cabinet to approve the notification of TDAP as the registrant body for GI registration of Basmati rice. The cabinet is scheduled to meet on November 10.

The government has also shortlisted two international legal firms to fight Pakistan’s case at the European Union to protect its own brand of Basmati rice.

These two firms are; Messers Altius international law firm and Messers Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick. The government has to select one of them.

India has applied for ‘an exclusive GI (Geographical Indications) tag for Basmati rice under the Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and the European Union’s official registry, the Council on Quality Schemes for Agricultural Products and Food Stuffs.

Presently, India has a 65% share of Basmati in the world market whereas Pakistan has a 35% share in the rice trade. Basmati rice fetches Pakistan around $800 million to $1 billion annually.

When contacted for comments, the commerce ministry spokesperson said that the Intellectual Property Organisation was working on the whole issue.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2020.

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