India and Pakistan have locked horns again, and it’s not Kashmir, this time the bitter rivals are tussling over basmati, the distinctive long-rice which is the heart of the beloved biryani! New Delhi has applied for an exclusive trademark that would grant India sole ownership of the basmati title in the European Union.
India has asked the EU to recognize this fragrant, long-grain staple as originating in seven Indian states and territories, which would give its producers exclusive rights to the basmati label in the lucrative European market. However, Pakistan has rejected India’s claims. Islamabad immediately opposed India’s move to gain Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) from the European Commission. It said farmers in Pakistan also grow and cultivate basmati rice.
Ghulam Murtaza, co-owner of Al Barkat Rice Mills in Lahore, told Al Jazeera, “It’s like dropping an atomic bomb on us.” He said India has caused all this fuss so they can somehow grab one of the our target markets. Murtaza added that their whole rice industry is affected. Malik Faisal Jahangir, vice-president of the Pakistan Rice Exporters Association, claims Pakistani basmati is more organic and better in quality. He said Europe is a very, very important market for Pakistan. The report states that Pakistan has expanded its basmati exports to the EU over the past three years. According to the European Commission, Pakistan now fills two-thirds of the region’s, approximately 300,000 tonnes annual demand.
India is seeking a PGI status as it grants intellectual property rights for products linked to a geographic area where at least one stage of production, processing or preparation takes place. According to the Los Angeles Times, India’s 2018 application asked the bloc to grant geographical indication status for basmati, which would tag it as a product inextricably connected to its place of origin, like Champagne from France, potatoes from Idaho or Kalamata olives from Greece. Such products are legally guarded against imitation and misuse in countries bound by the protection agreement. Moreover, a quality recognition stamp allows them to sell for higher prices. Furthermore, through the designation, if granted, India is looking to boost exports which have plunged in Europe due to failure to meet the region’s tough restrictions on pesticides.
Despite India having control of two-thirds of the global basmati market, competition between the nations has grown in recent years as Pakistan increases sales to Europe and Iran.