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October 2, 2015

‘Rice geographical indication law soon to be presented for vetting’


October 2, 2015

KARACHI: A law to help rice exporters to get aromatic basmati rice registered internationally as the Pakistani brand will soon be presented to the national assembly for approval, a minister said.
"The first draft of geographical indication law is ready to be presented before the national assembly," said Khurram Dastgir Khan, commerce minister, addressing the 17th annual general meeting of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), late on Wednesday’s night.
The draft will first be sent to REAP for its inputs before presentation to the standing committee and the national assembly. The law will help rice exporters to revive its falling exports.
There is a long pending dispute over rice geographical indication between Pakistan and India in the World Trade Organization.
The competitor India has relevant geographical indication (GI) laws.
In July, an Indian court asked rice growers of Pakistan and India to file their final arguments over an appeal related to the geographical indication (GI) of aromatic basmati rice by October.
Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) at Chennai, India, on July 8, heard the case pertaining to basmati GI, filed by Pakistan Basmati Growers Association (BGA).
The court adjourned the proceeding for the final hearing on November 3 and ordered all the parties, including various Indian bodies and the Pakistan’s trade body, to file their written arguments by October.
Pakistani basmati growers have been fighting strenuously at the Indian court in order to protect their geographical indication against infringements in aromatic rice since 2004.
According to the World Trade Organization, GI tag protects the legal rights of agricultural, manufactured and natural goods in a specific geographical territory. That means the rice produced in areas other than the specified cannot be called Basmati.
Pakistan Basmati Growers Association submitted that Basmati is a name for a slender, aromatic

and long grain variety of rice mainly grown in the specific geographical area at the foothills of the Himalayas in Pakistan.
Rafique Suleman, the outgoing chairman of the association said the law will help exporters to get basmati rice registered as their brand worldwide and revive its exports.
Suleman said the export of basmati declined nearly 10 percent to 675,000 tons in the fiscal year ended on June 30, 2015 from 750,000 tons in the prior year.
"The law will help in increasing the rice exports by 200,000 to 300,000 tons in the next two to three years," he said.
Pakistan grew some 2.5 million tons of basmati last year against the local consumption of around one million tons, it was learnt.
Rice, including non-basmati, is the single largest export commodity of Pakistan. Its exports, however, have been on decline for the last few years for one reason or the other.
"We have exported rice worth $3 billion, including $1.9 billion documented, last year,” Suleman said. “We will soon achieve the target of $4 billion.”
The undocumented exports are going to Iran, which is still under the US economic sanctions.
The government has also been making intense efforts to restore official trade with Iran that was suspended since May 2014 when US put economic embargo on the trading country, the minister said.
Minister Khan asked REAP members to get ready to visit Indonesia very soon, as the country is about to buy one million tons of rice from across the world. "The meeting may help win an order for Pakistan."
Similarly, the ministry has fixed a meeting in China on October 16, he said.
He said Pakistan may revive rice exports to Saudi Arabia.
He said Saudi officials told him that Pakistani exporters had done no serious marketing in Saudi Arab.
"We can take official delegation to Saudi Arabia," he said.
The government is also planning to meet rice importers in other countries, including UK and Philippine.
Khan said the government will make serious efforts to upgrade two rice research institutes at Dokri, Sindh and Kala Shah Kaku, Punjab to develop high-yielding seeds.

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