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EU to test quality of Pakistani Basmati rice

Written by: Staff
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Islamabad, Dec 4 (UNI) The European Union (EU) has sent a team to conduct DNA tests of Basmati rice in Pakistan, India and Nepal, to determine the EU's policy on Basmati imports from each of these South Asian countries.

Pakistan and India are the world's traditional producers of Basmati rice, with Nepal recently joining the brigade.

The EU delegation held a detailed meeting with officials of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock the other day and will also visit India and Nepal, Daily Times quoted a senior government official as saying.

The official said that he expected the tests to show the high quality of Basmati rice produced in Pakistan.

Rice exporters said India has registered its Basmati in the international market and Pakistan should do the same under World Trade Organisation rules. They also complained that the government was delaying framing a 'Geographical Indication (GI) law'.

The government is following a dual policy. On the one hand, it is preparing a GI law to register agricultural and traditional products specifically being produced or manufactured in Pakistan. On the other, it is considering a proposal from the Indian government to jointly register the Basmati rice produced by the two countries.

If the DNA tests conducted by the EU team show Pakistan's Basmati rice to be of equal or better quality to India's, the European market will remain open to Pakistani rice exports.

However, if the tests fail to show the rice is of a distinct quality, the EU could impose an embargo on Pakistani Basmati, the official said.

Pakistan has set a 2 billion dollars rice export target for this fiscal year. Rice exporters surpassed last year's one billion dollars export target by exporting 1.2 billion dollars worth of rice.

Some Pakistani exporters alleged that India had stolen a seed variety developed in Pakistan called 'Super Basmati'. They said the seed was developed here by growers in collaboration with local institutions, and this variety was in high demand in the world market.

However, they claimed, a few years ago two Sikh pilgrims visiting Pakistan took Super Basmati seeds with them and started cultivation in India. Eventually, Indian farmers developed a strong Super Basmati crop and started exporting it.

One rice exporter said this was a clear case of piracy and should be challenged in Indian courts. ''At least they should be barred from using the name 'Super Basmati', which is solely owned by Pakistan,'' he said.

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