Basmati rice is still not registered as a domestic product in Pakistan, even though the country is fighting a case in the European Union against Indian move to have the commodity registered as its product.
The rules require that before applying for registration of any product on the international market you must be protected under the geographical (GI) index rules of that country.
However, there are no provisions of the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act, 2020, enacted in March this year; as a result, Basmati is not yet a safe product in Pakistan.
The rice seller told Dawn that export sellers, particularly the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, had been urging the country’s government since the early 2000s in order to implement GI regulations.
The issue of protecting Basmati rice as a Pakistani product has come to light after India filed an application with the European Union seeking its sole owner in September this year.
In its operation India has demanded that “Basmati” special long-scented rice be grown and produced in a particular region of the subcontinent continent.
After highlighting Basmati rice’s brief history of, India claims that the region is part of its north, at the foot of the Himalayan mountains that form part of the Indo-Gangetic plain.
As it happened, the matter was referred to the Ministry of Trade and its affiliate, the Intellectual Property Organization (IPO) of Pakistan by rice sellers after seeing details of new applications on the EU website.
As the case was set for a public hearing and an invitation to the opposition, the matter was taken up by authorities and Adviser to the Prime Minister of Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood held an October meeting.
Finally, the EU indictment in the EU was disputed earlier this month and the main argument by Pakistan is that basmati rice was a joint product of India and Pakistan.
Pakistan exports 500,000 to 700,000 tons of basmati rice annually to various parts of the world where 200,000 to 250,000 tons are exported to EU countries.
Shortly after the introduction of these laws, TDAP will apply for GI protection for basmati rice in the country, which will ultimately make Pakistan’s case in the EU and elsewhere stronger.