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India and Pakistan take battle over title of Basmati rice to the EU

India and Pakistan take battle over title of Basmati rice to the EU

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Tenant farmers threshing rice saved from flooded field in Dadu District, Sindh province
Source:Oxfam international

What happened: India has applied for an exclusive trademark that would secure the country’s sole ownership of the basmati title and a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in the European Union. This move set off a dispute between both countries as it affects Pakistan’s position in the export market. Ghulam Murtaza, co-owner of Al-Barkat Rice Mills in South Punjab commented ‘its like dropping an atomic bomb on us,” showing the urgency of the matter.

Why is the Basmati title important: Pakistan recently expanded its export of basmati rice to the EU, taking advantage of India’s shortcomings in reaching the European pesticide standards. They have also organised the harvest of basmati production and placed it under a protected status after years of mismanagement. According to UN figures, rice export accounts for $2.2 bn in annual earnings for Pakistan. Placing basmati rice under a PGI would mean that India will be granted intellectual property rights and quality recognition stamps, making their rice very competitive. Therefore, India’s move aims to derail Pakistani progress and revenue.

What will happen next: The EU has given both countries the chance to reach a compromise by September. Pakistan hopes to convince India in submitting a combined application in the name of joint heritage because the reputation and geographic area of basmati are common to both countries. In the event of a ruling in India’s favour, Pakistan could be stuck in a long-drawn-out review process in European appeal courts.

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