Apr 28 - May 11, 2008

It is not a secret that India first of all was selling Pakistan Basmati in Dubai and abroad by buying it in bulk from Dubai market and reselling it in 5-kg packing, branding it as Indian Basmati. Then Indian traders used a still unethical approach by passing off their lower quality rice "CSR-30, claiming it as the world's finest long grained aromatic rice Basmati in the markets of the U.S.A., Canada and the Europe. This unethical business practice went on unobstructed with the full knowledge of our government, business concerns, Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Export Promotion Bureau and Rice Export Board and the government of India. So much so that Indian government illegally announced Super Basmati rice as an Indian variety of rice. Indian rice exporter enjoyed the duty exemption, which was accorded to pure Basmati in the Europe. Consumers abroad unaware of the real fact have been deceived tactfully and craftily by Indian traders.

This has badly damaged Pakistani Basmati rice sales in the foreign markets. There has been some public outcry in the print media and it was also given an understanding that Pakistan was intending to take legal action against the Indian government for illegally announcing Super Basmati rice as an Indian product. A senior official of Pakistan's government stated that in this situation that "We will fight for our right. Trading Corporation of Pakistan and Rice Export Association of Pakistan will represent Pakistan in India to proceed with the case in an Indian court." According to the official, "A lawyer has been hired in Delhi and as per his suggestion we would send notice to Indian government before filing the case in the Delhi High Court or the Supreme Court of India."

This news appeared in the print media in 2007. However, further information with regard to suing the government of India in Delhi and the outcome thereof, if any, has not yet come to surface.

In the mean-time concerned officials of the government of Pakistan have been reiterating, with confidence and conviction that under the geographical indication, the Super Basmati rice is a Pakistani product. It is sad and painful that India, in the mean-time, managed to get Super Basmati registered as an Indian product based on geographical indication hoodwinking Islamabad, TCP and REAP. By doing so India has successfully (though maliciously and unfairly) was paving the way to deprive Pakistan from its own superb rice variety, Super Basmati rice.

The problem does not end here. It has further escalated. Sometime ago the European block of 27 countries made it a binding for other countries that for exporting food items to Europe, their traders will have to undergo a registration based on G1. This registration would establish the fact that the exported item belongs to that particular country.

It is an irony of our fate that Pakistan failed to take an initiative to have its Super Basmati rice registered in Europe and India, which in the beginning was expressing interest to register Super Basmati in Europe of Pakistan origin based on G1, subsequently registered it in EU unilaterally, thus divesting Pakistan from exporting its Super Basmati to Europe. Is this not a criminal neglect on the part of our own authorities at the helm of affairs?

Pakistani rice exporters hold Islamabad responsible for this failure, which is tantamount to comprising the genuine national interests by giving a free hand to India to deprive Pakistan to have its own excellent product registered and promoted in the international and European markets.

India by manipulation and exploitation has assumed the status of a strong basmati industry and now it views Pakistan merely as one player in the supply chain. Thus, without any comparative advantage in basmati as compared to Pakistan's basmati rice, Indian rice industry has outshined. However, India did not make breakthrough and advancement in basmati research, it has benefited from our research. While Pakistan changed-over from Basmati-370 to Basmati-385, India getting hold of Pakistan's Kernal Basmati exploiting it to the maximum extent.

Pakistan is very much in a position to avert the unfavourable situation masterminded and instigated by India as the former has all the competitive advantages for basmati exposing all the relevant facts about India's "basmati" exports to its consumers and also to the importing countries and the international market.

It has been observed that Indian basmati traders have promoted Yemeni causing considerable damage to the Pakistani basmati market in Europe. It could be done so because the DNA test being used in Europe cannot differentiate it from EU's list of basmati varieties, which get an import tax rebate. Pakistan must explore specific market for Yemeni or Bura-rata rice variety so as to enable traders and customers abroad to separate Yemeni from Indian basmati included in EU list. This will expose Indian unfair trading practices in basmati exports.

Besides exploring markets for Yemeni, Pakistan must also find markets and enable foreign marketers and traders to differentiate between other non-basmati varieties offered by India like Pusa Basmati and Pusa 1121 so that Pakistan could have its own record of markets for all types of rice varieties that are being marketed or will be marketed in the region.

India has already misreported on basmati varieties to the EU and Food Standard Agency (FSA) and has misinformed consumers. The issue has assumed a very critical state as India is now going to patent its commercially grown basmati varieties which may serve as last nail in the coffin of Pakistani rice heritage.

A change in the government has already taken place and people are optimistic that it would prove a better change. The new democratic government has just sworn in with fresh spirit and ambition. We are sanguine that this matter will not be kept in the cold storage as the former government did and will be taken up at all the appropriate forums and levels most effectively and proficiently otherwise, prima facie the position explained, there would be no use crying over the spilt milk.