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India’s ‘rice flooding’ and patent rights must be contested by Govt authorities: President FPCCI

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Basmati Rice

Karachi: Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo, President FPCCI has expressed concern over the complaint of subsidised Indian rice damaging Pakistan’s exports, as reported by Rice Exporters Association Pakistan (REAP) President Abdul Qayyum Paracha. Maggo urged the government to take up the issue with World Trade Organisation (WTO) against New Delhi for “jeopardising international food security in violation of its rules.”

Nasser said; India offers its rice at an average rate of $360 per tonne while we have been quoting a price of $450 per tonne. This difference of around $100 per tonne has badly damaged our exports. The issue of India flooding foreign markets with subsidised exports is very serious. It should be taken on emergent basis without further delay, he added.

According to reports Pakistan rice exports, both Basmati and coarse varieties, during 11MFY21 were 14 percent less than that of the previous year. So far Pakistan has exported 3.3 million tonnes of rice in the 11MFY21 compared to 3.87m tonnes during the same period last year. Under the WTO rules, flooding international markets with subsidised food, particularly rice, is an offence. Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam all are offering rice export prices at $420 to $430 per tonne then how India could offer the same at $360 per tonne?”Indian Basmati exports hit record volume as it has so far exported 4.3m tonnes of the commodity, Nasser Hyatt said.

It means that Pakistan was not the only country hurt by heavily subsidised Indian rice exports. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal are all hit by the phenomenon. Other factors affecting Pakistan’s rice exports included exorbitant rise in freight rates. Two year ago, we had been paying $1,500 per container freight, for instance, for Italy. The same has now shot up to $8,000 per container — an increase of $250 per tonne. In this regard the role of our national carrier PNSC is also questionable, Maggo added.

The Chief of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry further stated that there is also a battle of Basmati trade mark with India. India has applied for an exclusive trademark that would grant it sole ownership of the basmati title in the European Union, setting off a dispute that could deal a major blow to Pakistan’s position in a vital export market.

“It’s like dropping an atomic bomb on us,” as said by the local owners of Rice Mills. Pakistan has opposed India’s move to gain Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) from the European Commission. But the matter is being lingered on which is not favourable situation. The two countries are the only global exporters of basmati. However, Pakistani basmati is more organic and “better in quality”.

PGI status grants intellectual property rights for products linked to a geographic area where at least one stage of production, processing, or preparation takes place. It differs from Protected Designation of Origin, which requires all three stages to take place in the concerned region, as in the case of cheeses such as French brie or Italian gorgonzola. Such products are legally guarded against imitation and misuse in countries bound by the protection agreement and a quality recognition stamp allows them to sell for higher prices.

India says it did not claim in its application to be the only producer of the distinctive rice grown in the Himalayan foothills, but attaining PGI status would nevertheless grant it this recognition. Similar protected status to pink Himalayan salt and other vaunted agricultural products are also required by Pakistani products and the producers. If the matter is not resolved aggressively and the EU rules in India’s favour, Pakistan could appeal to the European courts, but the long review process could leave its rice industry in limbo, Nasser Hyatt Maggo concluded.