Karachi: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) has invited the attention of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to the potentiality of exports of our super basmati rice and urged the authority to make supportive efforts for its promotion in global markets.
President UNISAME Zulfikar Thaver said our super basmati rice is real basmati rice having aroma, taste, look and length and undoubtedly the best aromatic rice in the world. It qualifies under the geographical indications and is grown in the identified areas but unfortunately we have drifted towards the non basmati rice which is very long but devoid of the characteristics of original basmati rice.
Thaver urged the TDAP to hold basmati festivals in collaboration with the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) in different overseas markets to promote our super basmati rice. He thanked and endorsed the views of Zahid Khawaja who is considered an expert on geographical indications (GI) and in fact submitted the draft of GI law in 2000 to the government.
Zahid Khawaja in a communication to UNISAME and other rice exporters said India defines Basmati as a photo period insensitive product that can be grown even in South India and that is completely devoid of the original Basmati aroma. That is why the bulk of Indian exports is either parboiled or steamed both processes are heat treatments where delicate esters and aromatic oils are completely destroyed. What we get is a long grain that seems to have been fed unnaturally. It is dry with a bad mouth feel, some people suffer stomach ailments from eating it and generally it is bad rice but good looking rice due to its length and obviously without aroma.
He explained that Indians do not have areas that can grow aromatic Basmati as we do. That is why price of Super Basmati in India is upwards of Indian Rupees 10,000 per 100 kg which converts to about $2,300 per ton C&F Dubai. Whereas what they call Basmati such as Pusa-1121 or Pusa (duplicate Basmati) etc. is the bulk of their exports and these are good grains from a point of view but these are not original Basmati. Pusa-1121 sells around Indian Rupees 8000 per 100 kg, at a whopping 20% discount. Consider why ? Because all they have is the extra long grain tasteless Pusa varieties but no true aromatic Basmati rice. Being in short supply and growing mostly adjoining India’s borders with Pakistan, Super Basmati is very expensive in India. That is why the Indians charge a huge import duty on rice from Pakistan. They are afraid we will export a huge quantity to them.
Pakistan is trying to copy India although we are the home of true original Basmati with original aroma, complete original chemical properties with good taste. He said we ignore this and want to produce plastic rice and compete with India. We want to excel in an area that is their forte. We don’t want to maximize or capitalize on our intrinsic heritage based value. We find the pastures greener across the border. If we are smart, we should do both, grow our Original Basmati and differentiate from them and grow their non-aromatic extra long grain ‘Basmati’ and beat them in quality because God Almighty has given us better lands. We can produce better rice. We lag behind in strategy and marketing and even tactics. We should review these areas and take the correct directions he insisted.
The fact is India and Pakistan define Basmati differently. The solution is not what Basmati Growers Association (BGA) is doing, fighting a legal battle in India.
India is not in a position to grow aromatic original super basmati rice in commercial quantities whereas we are fully capable of meeting the demands of original basmati rice buyers.
The solution is Pakistan and India should agree on “homonymous GI”. Ours will be called Pakistan Basmati as per our definitions. Theirs will be called Indian Basmati as per their definitions. Both can agree to grow and export both types of Basmati by adding the suffix of Pakistani or Indian before the word BASMATI.
He emphasized that we should also have a GI law and the administration could be under the Trade Marks Registry with additional portfolios till the workload is sufficient.
Zahid Khawaja suggested that we could also define two categories of Basmati. Original Basmati within the original Kaalar tract. Regular Basmati that can grow anywhere in Pakistan outside the area for original Basmati. In this way even PK-386 could be classified under Regular Basmati. We are growing Pusa-1121 calling it Kainat. This could be under the Regular Basmati category as well. Only the truly aromatic Basmati with complete chemical properties since the time of Waris Shah who mentioned Basmati first time in a written record, the poem “Heer” should be categorized as Original Basmati.