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​Grains of Contention: The India-Pakistan EU Basmati Dispute

​Grains of Contention: The India-Pakistan EU Basmati Dispute

Posted by Stelios on 4th Nov 2020

India's move to attain geographical indication (GI) status for its basmati rice in the EU has stoked tensions with Pakistan. This latest development intensifies the already delicate relations between the two nations.

Rice crop in pakistan Tariq hameed sulemani, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since 2006, the EU has granted tariff-free imports of rice that either Pakistani or Indian authorities certify as authentic basmati. India supplies about two-thirds of the EU's basmati imports, with the remaining coming from Pakistan.

India's plea for exclusive GI status asserts that the distinct qualities of basmati rice are native to areas including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, specific parts of western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. GI status highlights a product's unique attributes associated with its origin. European examples include Parma ham, champagne, and stilton cheese, enabling local producers to command premium prices. A similar boost was seen when Darjeeling tea was exclusively labelled from West Bengal post-2011.

Should the EU grant sole GI status to Indian basmati rice, Pakistani exporters would face significant setbacks. This application triggered urgent discussions among Pakistan's trade officials, representatives of its rice export association, and high-level government advisors.

Abdul Razak Dawood, an adviser to Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, has communicated their strong intent to contest this application. They plan to file a formal objection before the EU's year-end deadline.

According to the European Commission, Pakistan's basmati exports to the EU increased from 120,000 metric tons in 2017 to 300,000 in 2019. In contrast, Indian exports have declined due to the EU's strict pesticide regulations. Consequently, a more significant portion of Indian basmati is now exported to countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia – a trend India aims to alter.

A representative for the European Commission mentioned: "We've publicised India's application to register 'basmati' as a potential protected geographical indication. Stakeholders have a three-month window to voice objections. This doesn't confirm the 'basmati' registration but is a standard procedure step. The final verdict will be after this phase, ensuring everyone's rights are upheld. If there's any objection, it will be thoroughly reviewed in line with established protocols."


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