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Pakistan weighs options in Basmati row with India

Written by: Staff
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KARACHI, July 6 (Reuters) Pakistan is examining legal options to challenge a move by India to register a variety of Basmati rice as a national trademark, a senior government official said on Thursday.

A dispute between the South Asian rivals arose after India registered aromatic super Basmati variety under its Geographical Indication (GI) laws earlier this year.

Pakistan says it registered the same variety as a national trademark in 1995, and that it has been producing and exporting the rice for more than 20 years.

''Super Basmati is globally recognised as being of Pakistani origin and our legal view on the issue is quite clear,'' said a senior government official, who asked not to be named.

''But we are discussing this issue with the Foreign Office before taking a legal course, as any dispute with India is always very sensitive.'' Many government and trade officials said Pakistan did not have any GI laws, and that the government must frame laws before starting a legal battle with India.

''We don't have any legislation such as GI laws in the country that protect our natural resources,' said Abdul Majid, chairman of private Pakistan Rice Exporter Association.

''We have asked the government for the formation of one, otherwise our chances to win a legal fight with India on the Super Basmati issue are very slim .'' Majid said his association would support the government if it challenged the Indian plan to patent the rice.

EXPORTERS ANGRY Pakistani rice exporters also strongly criticised the Indian move, saying it would hit the country's rice trade sharply.

''If India moves to get a patent under the Super Basmati brand name, then our export market share will reduce sharply,'' said Shahzad Malik, CEO of Lahore-based Guard Rice, a leading Basmati exporter in Pakistan.

''But the irony is that the government is somehow very reluctant in taking up this issue with India, and as such no action has been taken as yet.'' Pakistan is amongst the world's top rice exporters and Basmati or aromatic rice is its top grade. Because of its low yield, Basmati is more expensive than other brands.

Pakistan annually grows about 1.5 million tonnes of Basmati rice, mainly in central Punjab province. In 2005/06 (July-June), the country exported 875,000 tonnes to Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia and Europe.

REUTERS MQA BD1606

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