India takes Basmati ‘copyright’ fight to Kenya & Philippines

India has taken umbrage at some countries using the term 'Basmati' to boost their rice exports, with the government drawing attention of The Philippines and Kenya to the matter.

Sources in the commerce ministry told FE that the Indian embassy recently asked The Philippines government to look into the export of domestic varieties under the name 'Basmati' to countries in West Asia. In a recent letter to the Indian government, The Philippines' department of agriculture admitted to using the word for exporting aromatic rice to West Asia and issued an advisory against it.

"The department of agriculture has taken necessary steps to respect the Geographical Indication (GI) of 'Basmati' rice and the national rice programme shall focus on our own aromatic rice varieties, which are abundant in various areas in The Philippines," department of agriculture, The Philippines, wrote in a letter to the Indian embassy in Manila. Commerce ministry officials said the attention had been drawn to the use of word 'Basmati' in Kenya's rice production programme as well.

An official with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) said the country is fighting over 200 cases globally on copyright infringement issue related to Basmati. The authority has taken the service of a London-based agency that tracks registration of rice consignments with the name Basmati.

Meanwhile, APEDA has filed an application for certification of Geographical Indication (GI) for Basmati with the Chennai office two years ago. The next hearing of GI registry for Basmati certification is expected in December. Basmati is mostly grown in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

GI registration is given to products with a reputation that can be attributed to its place of origin or the area where it is manufactured, like Darjeeeling tea, Kancheepuram silk, Mysore agarbatti and Champagne. After getting GI certification, India needs to register Basmati rice in all major export markets like Africa, West Asia and the European Union. The commerce ministry officials say as India emerged as the biggest rice exporting country last year, mainly because of acceptance of 'Basmati' rice abroad, many countries want to use the name.

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