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Australia Turns Down India’s GI Tag Application for Basmati Rice

Australia has rejected India's application for a geographical indication (GI) tag for its basmati rice in what could be an interesting trade dispute. Canberra has denied the request on the grounds that it is "not grown only in India".

Shivam Dwivedi
Australia asserts that rice farmers outside of India have a similarly valid claim to use the term, Basmati
Australia asserts that rice farmers outside of India have a similarly valid claim to use the term, Basmati

Following the rejection of the application for Basmati's name and logo, filed in February 2019, India has filed an appeal with the Federal Court of Australia, hoping to be successful.

"Australia has rejected our GI application," M Angamuthu, Chairman of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, said (APEDA). "We have already filed an appeal," says the lawyer. "An appeal has been filed against the name Basamti before the Federal Court of Australia on February 1, 2023," he said.

"Australia asserts that rice farmers outside of India have a similarly valid claim to use the term, Basmati. The interpretation of the prestige of GI products by Australian authorities is the thinking of the new world," said S Chandrasekaran, an expert in GI and author of "Basmati Rice: The Natural History Geographical Indiction".

APEDA is the government agency in charge of export promotion and GI registration for Indian products sold abroad. "It is (GI registration) an ongoing process and we will appeal again. This will have no effect on our trade," the APEDA Chairman stated.

"I believe India has misrepresented the facts. It is a product grown exclusively in North India and Pakistan. The GI stage for Basmati rice in India is well established, and it will be corrected in due course," said Vijay Setia, former president of the All India Rice Exporters Association and Director of Chaman Lal Setia Exports Ltd.

"Australia's rejection of the GI tag is irrelevant. "We trade Basmati rice under the same terms and conditions all over the world," said Rajesh Paharia Jain, a Delhi-based exporter.

Chandrasekaran said the thinking of the new world on GI law "pertains to European immigrants who carried a protected product name into their new home territory and use it commercially as seen in Latin America, South Africa and the US". It conflicts with the "Oriental and European system".

"In order to deal with these new world countries in our national interests, we needed appropriate strategy and tactics," he said. "It is a fight between two neighbours-India and Pakistan. On the same issue, we have fought the US. Such a decision will have no effect on us," Jain stated.

Experts, including Chandrasekaran, believe India made a mistake or two in finalising the FTA with Australia. On Friday, shares of Basmati rice companies fell 1% on the stock market. "The current rejection of Basmati GI tag by Australia is a missed opportunity by India to incorporate Basmati rice GI protection in the first round. "India should take up this in the second stage," Chandrasekaran said.

According to him, this could help India address the long-pending issue of GI tag in the United States. The US reluctance to offer GI Tag could be attributed to a patent that RiceTec obtained in the US for Texmati rice with Basmati properties, which India fought tooth and nail to have reversed.

After Pakistan objected to the tag, India faced a similar problem in obtaining a GI tag for basmati rice in the European Union. The European Commission requested that India and Pakistan reach an agreement through talks, but no agreement was reached. As a result, the matter is still open.

According to Chandrasekaran, the issue may now come up in Europe's FTA talks with India, with the former attempting to bargain something in the talks. Angamuthu and trade experts believe Australia's decision will have no effect on trade because it imports about 50,000 tonnes of basmati per year, with shipments of 35,112 tonnes valued at Rs 351.78 crore during the current fiscal year.

It imported 43,977 tonnes worth Rs 370 crore in the previous fiscal year, and it plans to buy 57,989 tonnes worth Rs 480.82 crore in 2020-21. Australia accounts for slightly more than 1% of India's total Basmati rice exports.

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