Tension the rise between India and Pakistan over the geographical identification of Basmati rice. The two countries are currently in dispute over the European Union’s identification of the type of rice’s Geographical Indication (GI). In a recent lobby to the EU on September 11th, 2020, India has claimed the rice as being grown at the foothills of the Himalayas on Indian terrain – despite the EU’s assertion that Basmati rice is a joint export of India and Pakistan, in 2006.
India claims a cultural legacy the basmati name: first recorded reference to basmati rice appears in ‘Heer Ranjha’, a Punjabi poem by Varis Shah in 1766. The Indian application of the name derives from two Sanskrit word roots. The first word ‘vas’ refers to the aroma of the rice, whilst ‘mati’ alludes to the ancient tradition of the rice in Indian culture, meaning ‘ingrained from the origin’.
The opposition to India’s claim over the rice comes from the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood. Following a meeting with the Secretary of Commerce, Chairman, Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO-Pakistan), and representatives of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), Dawood declared Pakistan would oppose the designation sought by India with the Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act. This would prevent India from claiming exclusive rights to Basmati rice labelling for products exported to the EU. Such an act would exclude Pakistan from being able to label their exported rice as Basmati, and could significantly damage rice sales that rely on customer’s brand recognition of the rice-growing region. In data from the Pakistani Commerce Ministry, out of the 500,000 – 700,000 tons of rice exported by Pakistan, roughly 200,000 – 250,000 is currently exported to the EU. Pakistan is known around the globe for its quality exports of the famous rice. Rice exports contribute over $2 billion to the Pakistan economy each year and are the second highest-grossing export after textiles.