The politics around basmati not fair –

Credit: Original article can be found here

New Delhi, May 16 IANS: The European Commissions (EC) attempt since July 2018 to put pressure on India to modify its application by including basmati growing areas in Pakistan or to file an additional joint application with Pakistan has delayed the approval of GI tag for the Indian basmati rice in the European Union (EU).

The most immediate deadline of the EU to grant GI tag to Indian Basmati, April 30, has also ended without yielding any favourable result. The EU was waiting for a Pakistani application in this respect with evidence of environmental factors suitable for Basmati.

Earlier, the EC had intimated Pakistan to decide on India’s application by April 30 in the absence of a formal confirmation from both the countries over a joint application for registration.

Since the beginning, India is not in the favour of joint application given the special quality of its basmati as well as a larger area under cultivation of the crop in India.

The government has instructed the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Agency (APEDA) on the advice of the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Commerce and Industry to focus solely on the GI tag application for India and not consider any other option either including the Pakistani regions producing basmati or a joint application with Pakistan.

The APEDA is the nodal agency for obtaining GI tags for Indian products.

APEDA Chairman M Angamuthu revealed that there are 12 objections against India’s GI tag application in the EU including two from Pakistan.

APEDA’s representatives have been tasked to interact with the legal representatives of the countries who opposed India’s GI tag application as required under EU regulations.

Reportedly, the EC “feels obligated to protect basmati originating in both Pakistan and India” and prefers a single registration for the “basmati” name “to respect the rights of both origins”.

The APEDA Chairman raises a valid question. “Why the EU is going the extra mile to support Pakistan, when it has to uphold the pillars of authenticity and quality standards?” It appears that the EU is attempting to manipulate without realizing that India is in a favourable condition.” It is notable that between 2001 and the present, India’s Basmati exports to the EU increased from 100,000 to 400,000 tonnes before falling to 150,000 tonnes.

Pakistan is yet to develop a definition of Basmati, a physical standard and has failed to inform about the DNA standard which India did way back in 2003.

The Indian basmati is preferred over others. The export of basmati from India increased from one million tonnes to 4.5 million tonnes over time. The UK accounts for 50 per cent of Indian basmati demand.

The EU earlier tried to raise the issue of fungicide tricyclazole residues in basmati rice consignments, but now the standard is proven to be maintained by Indian exporters. The Food Safety Standards Authority of India established the domestic standard of basmati.

It is anticipated that the EC has received details of Pakistan-growing areas and is now expected to ask Pakistan to demonstrate that the growing areas meet the environmental factors in the single document as presented by India in its GI application. It indicates efforts to juxtapose Pakistan’s claims against India.

There could be some kind of pressure tactics of the EU behind this. According to traders and experts, the EU is probably trying to “browbeat India (from its firm stand) in its trade talks to gain access to its wines and whiskey”.

The pressure of EU on India to revise its application of GI tag to basmati may also be due to lobbyists working from Pakistani side to push forward the case of a joint application so that Pakistan occupied Kashmir is legitimized as part of Pakistani territory despite being illegally occupied.

This point has been emphasized by experts like S. Chandrasekaran, a GI expert who has written the book “Basmati Rice: The Natural History Geographical Indication”. India could never relent on any such effort.

This is an obnoxious game to prevent a country from its genuine right. So far India has received GI status of basmati in four countries and certification status in seven countries, including the UK and China. It is hoped that the EU also takes a clue and grants GI to Indian basmati.

Once the EU grants this well deserved right to India, the prospects for India’s GI certification in other countries including the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Sri Lanka would improve as they would have a basis to revisit the issue and its complexity from Indian perspectives.