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October 9, 2020

Pakistan accelerates efforts to protect basmati exports’ rights in EU


October 9, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan is determined to protect rights to continue exporting basmati rice to the European Union (EU), a senior official said on Thursday, as the battle with India on the brand ownership in the 27-member bloc has intensified.

The executive director of state-owned Intellectual Property Organisation Meesaq Arif assured the exporters that the matter is in control of the government.

“The TM (trade mark) and GI (geographical indication) tag will be given to our basmati which it fully deserves,” he said during a meeting with the traders. “All steps are being taken as per GI law and the IPO is fully aware of all legal formalities and action to be taken.”

In 2006, the EU approved basmati as the joint product of Pakistan and India. However, India applied with the EU in September to certify its basmati as its exclusive brand. Pakistan exports 500,000 to 700,000 tons of basmati rice to different parts of the world and out of which 200,000 to 250,000 tons are shipped to EU countries, according to the commerce ministry’s data.

Pakistan earned $2.2 billion from rice exports during the last fiscal year and 40 percent of them were from basmati, an aromatic grain that is much popular in international market. India has been trying to get exclusive rights of supplying this variety to foreign markets for years.

Exporters, while addressing the central standing committee on rice of the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and industry, urged the government to leave no stone unturned to get an international trademark for its basmati as India’s ambition for this might cause almost one billion dollars in annual export losses to Pakistan.

The government was advised to take prompt steps to register the basmati trademark internationally. Certain steps have to be taken without loss of time and before applying to the EU for geographical indication – a global certification to authenticate a brand ownership.

Traders said the government should file an application for the inclusion of GI tag for its basmati to the EU.

“Pakistan’s application will be considered on merit,” said Zulfikar Thaver, president of Union of Small and Medium Enterprises.

Thaver said exporters said the certification of basmati rice as mentioned in the GI law needs to be given to an independent authority like Trading Corporation of Pakistan or Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research alternatively to accredit private pre-shipment inspection companies.

“Under no circumstances it should be entrusted to the association of growers or exporters as it would give rise to conflict of interest,” he said.

Rice exporter Rafique Suleman said a task force has been formed in Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) to bring the matter up and involve bureaucracy and ministries. His views were endorsed by other exporters.

The meeting was informed that protection and promotion of basmati is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders and every effort must be made to grow more and export more.

It was advised that the matter pending in Sindh High Court also needs to be studied and pursued diligently. The stakeholders must not show complacency and remain proactive and alert in this matter.

The matter of trade with Kenya was also taken up during the meeting and it was suggested that a free trade agreement with Kenya could resolve the issues of duties on rice and tea and trade can be promoted fairly by both the countries.