KATHMANDU – The government has stepped up to claim the geographical indication (GI) right on Basmati paddy in the European Union (EU), in response to India seeking an approval to receive GI certification for the same from the political and economic union of 27 member countries.
GI, an intellectual property, is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. GIs are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products, among others.
The GI tag indicates a product with its qualities, reputation or characteristics, natural or human factors, based on its specific geographical origin. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the GI secures the intellectual property right for the original producer and bars a third party from using the sign for trading. In 2018, India applied for a GI tag in the EU for Basmati rice, a variety of long, slender-grained aromatic rice.
Basmati rice has been in production in the South Asian region, including Nepal, since ages. Hari Bahadur KC, spokesperson of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, told Republica that the government is sending a letter to the EU laying claim on the product on Wednesday.
The government has taken the initiative just a day before the EU set deadline of December 10 to register the claims. The European Commission, an executive branch of the EU, has invited objections on the proposal with a deadline of December 10, following the application forwarded by India for approval of GI sign.
Apart from Nepal, India’s move has also irked its neighbouring country Pakistan. Last March, the Pakistan government had enacted Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act to oppose the Indian application for registration of Basmati rice exclusive rights.
Long-grain basmati rice has a unique charm in global markets, including Nepal, which has resulted in a growth in rice imports, even though the country produced surplus grain, according to agro experts. Last year, Nepali farmers gathered 5.55 million tonnes of paddy, the second largest harvest in history.
However, Nepal does not grow fine rice or basmati rice in large volumes and a growing demand for this fine rice is met through imports from India. Even the government does not have authentic data on the actual production amount of Basmati rice. “Despite the fact, the government’s concern now is not to close the door completely from future prospects when we will be in a position to export the product in the international market,” KC said.