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ISLAMABAD: The government has initiated consultations with legal counsels to contest India’s filing of an application to tag at the European Union (EU) for basmati rice.

This was stated by the Intellectual Property Organization (IPO), Pakistan Chairman Mujeeb Ahmed Khan at a meeting of Senate panel here on Tuesday.

Senate panel chairman Senator Mirza Muhammad Afridi said he has received information that India has challenged Pakistan Geographical Indication (GI) law at the European Union.

Secretary Commerce Sualeh Faruqi confirmed that India has challenged Pakistan's GI law at the European Union.

However, IPO chairman briefed the panel that India has applied for GI tag in European Union for BASMATI rice under Article 50(2)(a) of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs, mentioned in the EU official journal on Sep 11, 2020.

"Indian application mentions Basmati rice as an Indian origin product, despite the fact that similar rice is widely produced in Pakistan. The application is based on half-truth and frivolous grounds having no legal and factual backing,” he added.

Pakistan exports 500,000 to 700,000 tons of basmati rice to various countries. Out of that, 200,000 to 250,000 tons are shipped to European countries. The European Union is a massive destination for local rice exporters and therefore it is a crucial issue for Pakistan.

Mujeeb Ahmed Khan said that EU regulation No 972/2006 of June 29, 2006 laying down special rules for imports of Basmati rice and a transitional control system for determining their origin has recognized Basmati as joint product of Pakistan and India. Basmati is already recognized as a product of both India and Pakistan under the said European Regulation and its Duty-Free Regime, making it illegal for India to claim exclusive rights of Basmati in the EU. According to EU official journal, any country can oppose the application for registration of an AME pursuant to Article 10 and Article 50(2) (a) of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs within three months from the date of publication. "EU has given three months time to file objections on the Indian application. India has twisted the facts," Khan continued. Pakistan is preparing its objection to the Indian application and will be submitting its response within the stipulated timeframe, he maintained.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020