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The government e-marketplace (GeM) is going to experiment with blockchain technology by running a pilot project for 372 geographical indication (GI)-registered products.

The move is aimed at preparing for a supply of vaccines and medicines in a secure manner on its platform. Itwill help avoid counterfeits andfacilitate the tracking of prescribedstandards throughout the supply chain of a product.

“There is a lot of counterfeiting in GI products. We buy a Pashmina shawl based on what the shopkeeper says. We don’t have the wherewithal to verify it. We are using blockchain technology for GI products where we have end-to-end visibility, which will include the manufacturer, clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents, any of the agencies certifying the quality of the product, GeM, and recipient of the product," GeM chief executive officer Prashant Kumar Singh said in an interview.

“We go to medical stores and buy medicines that have to be stored at minus 10 degrees Celsius. We don’t know whether it has been stored at that temperature from production to consumption stage. Using blockchain technology, by inserting a small IoT (internet of things) device, which keeps on beaming the temperature every 10 seconds, all those who are on the platform will get to see whether the requirement has been met throughout the journey. It enhances authenticity and proves the genuineness of the product," Singh said.

Blockchain is no more a recent technology, but is not well deployed in the country till now, he said.

“As we are now self-sufficient in a way and we have certain leverage, we can try out this technology in this segment. Once it succeeds, we can take it to vaccines and medicines," Singh said.

As the government is not a big buyer of the GI products, GeM is contemplating methods of scaling it up, Singh said. “At some stage, we have to see how to take them to customers apart from the government, and what is the best way to do that. The idea is to empower the producers financially and digitally. Our people will do a lot of handholding in the development of that," he said.

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) also earlier this year launched GrapeNet, a blockchain and cloud migration-enabled certification and traceability software system, for monitoring fresh grapes exported from India to the European Union. The APEDA can trace details of the consignment right from the allocation of the farms for production of the grapes to the point of grapes being delivered to the customers. It will keep a record of all processes involved, which can be traced by customers at the end of the chain to validate the authenticity of grapes being provided to them.

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