On February 16, 2016, the Basmati rice, a special long grain aromatic rice, became the latest product to obtain the Geographical Indication (GI) Certification. About 250 products have been added to this list so far.
Earlier in 2008, the Union Commerce Ministry’s wing, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) had applied to the Geographical Indications Registry of India, to acquire an exclusive commercial use of the name ‘BASMATI’ for the rice grain varieties grown within the boundaries of the Indo-Gangetic plains, encompassing most of northern and eastern India. Subsequently, India and Pakistan had initiated steps to register Basmati under GI as a joint heritage for protecting its premium market abroad, where Pakistan had reportedly agreed not to contest India’s move to include Basmati in its GI Registry, with the condition that when Pakistan institutes a similar IPR platform, it would also get the rice grown in its Punjab province registered under its GI system. This aspect was covered extensively in our earlier newsletter issue no. 50 dated December 14, 2015,. However, this did not fructify due to an opposition within Pakistan.
After seven years of filing the said application for grant of GI protection to Basmati rice, the GI Registry in Chennai, India granted the coveted tag to APEDA on February 16, 2015. APEDA has been granted the GI tag as the sole custodian of Basmati rice. This development took place following the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) in Chennai asking the GI registry to grant the GI Certification to APEDA last month in January.
This GI protection in India would lead to similar recognition of Basmati in other countries, including the European Union (EU) and the United States (US), which implies that India’s competitors would be barred from using the ‘Basmati’ tag. In the absence of such a GI, many private companies had been trying to register their products under this title, which commands a premium in the global market. Basmati rice from the Indo-Gangetic plain, which also includes the Punjab province of Pakistan, has a special aroma attributable and unique to it. India dominates with an 85% share in the global trade of Basmati rice at present.
Following the GI Certification, exporters and farmers of the 77 districts of 7 states in India, namely, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, would now get the benefits bestowed by a GI Certification, that is, the registered proprietor and authorized users having the legal right to the exclusive use of the GI and preventing all unauthorized persons from using the same. Products sold with the GI tag get the benefit of premium pricing as well and the legal protection that is conferred would boost exports, thus, promoting the economic prosperity of the producers of goods produced in that geographical territory.
India exports millions of tonnes of Basmati to the rest of the world including the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Europe and the United States every year. More substantively, Indian farmers export $250 million in Basmati every year and U.S. is a strong target market.
With the addition of the Basmati Rice to the GI protected list, much more profits are expected to accrue to the concerned communities growing Basmati Rice in India.