THE Basmati Growers Association (BGA) has asked the federal government to take action against the local rice exporters who are not opposing illegal Indian bid to get premium quality of Basmati registered as sole patent.
Addressing a press conference here Sunday at the Lahore Press Club, BGA President Hamid Malhi said that under the TRIPS agreement each member country had to register origin related products according to their domestic laws. The BGA applied for the registration of Basmati with the Trade Marks Registry (TMR), Karachi, in December 2005. The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), the Agriculture Produce Export and Development Authority of India (APEDA), other rice exporters and millers of Pakistan filed oppositions against the application, which is regrettable act. The TMR decided the matter in May 2008 in BGA’s favour, against which apex body of Pakistani rice exporters, REAP and India official body APEDA, both filed appeals in the Karachi High Court. The BGA has also filed an appeal to rectify flaws in the decision. All the appeals are pending hearing with the High Court.
In the meantime, BGA President Hamid Malhi said, on November 26, 2008, the APEDA filed an application for the registration of Basmati in India with the Geographical Indication Registry in Chennai. The application was made public on May 31, 2010 after acceptance for further processing. The last extended date for filing opposition was September 30, 2010, he maintained. To protect the rights of the Basmati sector in Pakistan, Malhi said, the BGA had filed an opposition against this application on September 30, 2010. But, he lamented, unfortunately those Pakistanis who apposed the registration of Basmati in Pakistan kept quiet in the case of Indian registration of Basmati.
“Basmati farmers are unable to understand these double standards and ask why Basmati registration in Pakistan is not being allowed to finalise,” he said. “BGA demands that the federal government should take cognizance of the issue and unearth the elements in the country who on one side oppose the registration of Basmati in Pakistan but on the other hand allow the APEDA to register Basmati in India,” he maintained.
The BGA has compiled its opposition against the APEDA with the help of renowned legal experts. The application of the APEDA has been opposed on many grounds, the most important being the area claimed to be the Basmati growing area of India. The Basmati area has been negated through facts and figures of Indian experts and institutes. The APEDA while having full knowledge of Pakistani Basmati area has clearly avoided any specific detail of the area. The APEDA has also compromised the basic characters of the Basmati aroma and the photoperiod sensitivity, the BGA president explained.
Malhi was of the view that the so-called and fake Basmati exports from India had increased from 1.2 million tonnes to 2.3 million tonnes in the last three years whereas Basmati exports of Pakistan were hovering around one million tonnes in the same period. Production of Basmati, which is variety of Pakistan, is not an issue while the actual issue is the export of Basmati at a good price, which exporter should give priority.
“BGA has time and again requested the federal government that the Quality Review Committee (QRC) which certifies quality of all Basmati exports should be made independent of the control of REAP, so export of this rare aromatic variety could be increased,” he asserted.
During 2010-11 non-basmati exports are expected to reduce by 75 percent. To make up for the monetary loss it is suggested that a minimum export price (MEP) of 1000$ per tonne should be fixed to get maximum returns from the export of Basmati rice.