Contention over Basmati Rice

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Pakistan and India have many differences, from political ideologies to geo-politics, but one common factor the two nations have is their diet. Both countries’ diets include rice because rice is a staple food and grows abundantly in the two regions. This abundance has led to rice; specifically, basmati rice is one of Pakistan and India’s most significant exports. As the two countries compete in everything, basmati rice export is no exception.

India decided to file a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for basmati rice in the European Union. A PGI would stop other countries from selling the same product to the EU as it would grant India intellectual property rights to basmati rice. This would put Pakistan in an abysmal situation as this status would stop Pakistan from earning $2.2 billion annually. According to the European Commission, the region has a demand of 300,000 tonnes of basmati rice annually, and Pakistan had filled two-thirds of that amount for the past three years since India was unable to meet the criteria in order to export to the EU’s standard for pesticides. For India to file a PGI and be the sole exporter of basmati rice, it would hurt millions of Pakistanis, mainly the farmers.

Pakistan has been urging India to not go ahead with filing this PGI or to submit a joint application as both countries have a long and strong history with basmati rice. The EU has granted India an extension of three months in order to settle this dispute with Pakistan. Many Pakistanis are confident that they will still have access to the basmati market after this issue. If that is not the case, they could find themselves in European court in order to overturn that ruling.

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