Govt asked taking notice of conspiracy to limit GI of Basmati rice

Karachi: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) has urged the Secretary Ministry of Commerce (MINCOM) to take serious notice of the statement and propagation of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Development Authority (APEDA) a statuary body of India to the geographical indication (GI) of Basmati restricting it to the areas best suited to them and curtailing the areas in Pakistan based on merit.

President UNISAME Zulfikar Thaver pointed out that aromatic basmati rice is grown in many areas of Pakistan and the basmati grown in these areas possesses the inherent unique characteristics and features of Basmati rice and any restrictions to its declaration and definition based on merit would amount to undermining its worth.

He said due to the lack of focus and persuasion of the ministers in the earlier governments the Indian rice lobby prevailed and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), the MOC and the Rice Exporters

Association of Pakistan (REAP) were unable to comprehend the consequences of the Indian GI and the aggressive approach of India to the GI and marking of the geographical area. The union kept telling them time and again of the importance of clarifying the geographical indications in the region so as not to exclude the areas which are growing Basmati rice since many years but they ignored the warnings of the union.

The APEDA states that basmati is a GI as defined under article 22 of the TRIPS agreement and therefore cannot be registered or appropriated as a trade mark or a part thereof. The right to use the name Basmati vests only with the growers, processors, farmers and traders of Basmati grown in the geographical area.

Thaver lamented that the organizations were busy in taking control of the Quality Review Committee (QRC) a committee entrusted with the task of carrying out pre shipment inspection (PSI) of basmati rice and instead of focusing on the very important issue of GI of basmati rice they engaged themselves in seeking control of the QRC to dominate their competitors.

Although this created apparent conflict of interest the authorities kept denying its adverse effects on the trade and created disunity in the exporters who were otherwise well prepared to take up the GI matter on the international forum.

He once again urged the MOC to disarm the QRC to carry out PSI and instead assign it the task to complete the GI of Basmati on merit first and foremost. He invited the attention of the MOC to the fact that QRC was basically formed to protect the Basmati variety but now since the major domestic and foreign demand is for 1121 variety which is more expensive then even super basmati rice but not considered as basmati although exported as basmati and likewise the 386 variety is very popular but again not basmati rice. In fact the 386 variety still remains a banned variety on record but is being exported widely.

He urged the MOC to accept facts and remove the ban on 386 and recognize it as a variety to enable the SMEs to export it without hassle. The exporters need a free hand to export rice as per the requirements of the buyers. The exporters need to be left on their own to export basmati or non basmati rice or blends as desired by their customers under their own brands or of those of their customers.

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