Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Basmati, a long-grained and aromatic variety of rice, is a subject of dispute between India and Pakistan. In 2018, India filed an application for a geographical indication tag (GI Tag) for Basmati in the European Union. As per the publication in the Official Journal of the European Union dated 11th September 2020, the European Commission had invited opposition against the application within three months from the date of this publication. Pakistan has decided to take the Commission up on their invitation.
Both India and Pakistan are major exporters of basmati rice globally, with the former exporting 65%. In its application, India specifies that Basmati is grown and produced in all districts of the States of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, as well as in specific districts of western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. It further described how various factors present in the geographical areas have influenced the specific characteristics and quality of Basmati. The manner in which the application portrays Basmati’s origin to be specifically Indian has made the Pakistani rice exporters and stakeholders upset.
Two decades ago, India and Pakistan came together against RiceTec, an American corporation, which claimed a patent over ‘American Basmati.’ Today, the neighbours are set to fight amongst themselves over the same subject. Considering the economic benefits of an international GI Tag, it will be intriguing to see in whose favour the European Commission tips the balance.