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LAHORE/KARACHI: Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) has filed a 'notice of opposition' on December 7 against India's claim on Geographical Indicator (GI) of Basmati in the European Union.

The European Union (EU) has also acknowledged filing of the 'notice of opposition' after which a period of 60 days has started to file 'reason statement' by the Reap on this claim, said sources in the Association while talking to Business Recorder Tuesday.

They said the Association has hired a noted legal firm ABS in Pakistan while Marco Bronckers, which currently works as an independent practitioner in Brussels, specializing in EU and international trade law, has been hired to contest on behalf of the Association in Europe. Marco Bronckers also holds the chair of WTO and EU law at Leiden University, the sources added.

The Reap has taken this step on behalf of rice exporters and farmers of Pakistan who are at the risk of losing billion dollars income. Pakistan has a thriving industry of export of Basmati, making Pakistan one of the top five exporters of rice in the world, the sources added.

The Reap has previously been involved in developing and revising UK Code of Practice and arranging trade delegations abroad to foster the export of Basmati from Pakistan. The Reap has carried on its reputation of a responsible and effective association by standing up to preserve the heritage of Pakistan.

It may be added that India had sought the protection of its Basmati as a GI product in EU in a mala fide attempt to deter Pakistan's growing export and appreciation of Basmati. Pakistan's export of Basmati to the EU has almost doubled in the last five years and it has outpaced India's exports of the same.

The importers and customers in EU appreciate Pakistan's Basmati more than that of India due to its exotic aroma, sweeter taste and soft texture and above all in terms of Food Safety including Pesticides which has resulted in increased demand. Basmati, being a centuries-old heritage of Pakistan, could not be allowed to be monopolized by India in the European market.

Such a gross misrepresentation by India on the origins of Basmati is an attack on the values of fair competition among farmers and exporters in EU. Pakistan has a legal right to export Basmati with its original name in accordance with the practice in EU which is decades old. European importers have also raised their objections against the Indian stance, and in support of Pakistan, Reap statement also issued on the subject added.

In coordination with the Ministry of Commerce, Reap is striving for early legislation on the GI rules in Pakistan. Consequently, Reap is leading the way in this endeavour without any regards to costs.

In addition, Pakistan's export of basmati to the EU has almost doubled in the last five years, and it has outpaced India's exports in the same period, therefore India is using mala fide practices to hit Pakistan's rice exports to EU countries and file GI claim in the EU.

Sources said that the notice of opposition will enable Pakistan's exporters and farmers of basmati to prevent their product from being used by the same name on the international markets. An internally-registered GI of basmati would strengthen Pakistan's case in the ensuing legal stages at the European Union.

Reap is optimistic that Pakistan has a strong case as the EU recognizes Pakistan as an authentic basmati growing region. The protection of basmati as Pakistan's indigenous produce is crucial to sustaining exports.

Pakistan is a leading exporter of rice, and the country earned over $2 billion in foreign exchange last year through the export of rice. The GI is a sign used on products that have a specific origin, and it increases the products reputation. The EU countries are using GI labelling to boost the value of product. The GI tag is an exclusive right to sell products in registered markets.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020