New Delhi: Even as the two countries are engaged in a discussion on several economic issues including a proposal to make a joint bid for geographical indication (GI) for basmati rice, Pakistan has served a legal notice to India claiming that Indian exporters are illegally exporting Super Basmati, a strain developed in Pakistan.
Pakistan has threatened to sue India if does not immediately suspend exports of Super Basmati. It has been contemplating legal action against India since last year, ever since the country’s commerce ministry notified the variety enabling traders to export it.
Indian exports of super basmati are beginning to challenge Pakistan’s domination. Pakistan currently exports 700,000-800,000 tonnes of super basmati every year, while India managed 50,000-80,000 tonnes in the very first year in which it exported the variety. Besides, India’s exports of the variety account for 92% of Super Basmati imported by the European Union.
Traders, however counter Pakistan’s claim, and say that the country has been exporting Pusa Basmati, an Indian variety, to the EU since 2004.
Some of the traders say that Pakistan’s immediate concern may stem from the fact that the Indian variety of Super Basmati is superior. The Pakistan variety is susceptible to aflatoxins, they claim. Aflatoxins are toxic sustances produced by some kind of fungus.
One of the traders said that rice crop in Pakistan is harvested when it is “almost dripping wet” (rice, or paddy, is grown in fields that are then flooded with water) because they have to use the same fields to grow wheat. He claimed that this made Pakistani Super Basmati vulnerable to aflatoxin producing fungus. “Farmers here (in India), can harvest later (after the water is drained),” he added.
Another Indian variety, Pusa-1121, similar to Super Basmati, has begun to challenge the market share of Pakistan’s Super Basmati in Iran. However, Pusa-1121 is not a Basmati, just a long-grained variety.
Despite its differences, Pakistan is keen to push for a joint GI on basmati. If this does happen, India and Pakistan will hold exclusive rights to the Basmati name. A GI is granted by the World Trade Organization recognizing a particular product as characteristic of a specific region.