‘Pickup in basmati rice exports’

Published Apr 01, 2013 03:07am

THIS is apropos of the article ‘Pickup in basmati rice exports’ (March 25). Among other issues such as absence of research in high-yielding varieties and decline in the area of cultivation, the article discussed how exports of Pakistani basmati rice are being hit because of the absence of a geographical indication (GI) law.

I disagree with the conclusion that a GI law, in general, and a GI, in particular, on basmati will do wonders for increasing its exports.

A geographical indication is a sign affixed on the packaging of certain goods, certifying that the product originates from a specific geographical area and because of that has specific characteristics. These characteristics cannot be replicated in another area, especially when it comes to agricultural products.

According to the article, Indian exports of basmati will hit 10 million ton this year. However, it must be borne in mind that basmati has not yet been registered in India as a GI. Hence, at least in India’s case, its successful export is not simply the result of ‘enacting a GI law’. One of the reasons, as the writer pointed out, could be research in new varieties or other initiatives.

According to the article, the Trade Mark Ordinance is inadequate and may cause long-term harm to exports. Respecting this point of view, this statement begs for a supporting argument convincing the reader that this is the case in reality too.

The certification and collective marks system under the trademark law is used in some countries, including the US.

Thus, there is a need to explore which system works better in case of agricultural goods.

The economics and politics of GIs is markedly different from other intellectual property rights. This is especially true because a GI is normally owned by a collective or a group of stakeholders. This is a well-known argument against using the trademark system which usually assigns rights to individual persons or companies.

However, collective or certification marks systems are an innovation and try to address this aspect of the trademark law.

What needs to be asked, and as rightly pointed out by the writer, is how to counter the attempts of countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh from usurping the identity of basmati. In any case, at least here in Germany there is basmati rice available from Thailand.

OWAIS HASSAN SHAIKH Munich, Germany

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