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EU: India and Pakistan in basmati rice battle at the European Union,

Issue 09 Sep 2021

A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place. In addition, the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. GI right enables those who have the right to use the indication to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards.

Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, cheese, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, industrial products etc.

A number of international treaties deal partly or entirely with the protection of geographical indications or appellations of origin including but not limited to Lisbon Agreement, Paris convention, TRIPS Agreement.

India, an exporter of basmati rice, applied for protected geographical indication (PGI) status from the European Union’s Council on Quality Schemes for Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs[1]. This would give it sole ownership of the basmati title in the EU. Pakistan, which is the largest producer of basmati rice and exports it to the world shares this heritage with India, has opposed this move as it would adversely impact its own exports, especially as the EU is a major market for basmati originating from Pakistan. Basmati rice is an export-oriented item for both India and Pakistan.

If an agreement cannot be reached between India and Pakistan and the EU rules in favour of either party, the matter could end up before the European Court.

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