On the boil: Pakistan, India tussle over basmati rice origin

India’s application for GI at the EU for its basmati rice and grain faces rough sailing after Pakistan said it would challenge the move.
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Updated 07 October 2020

On the boil: Pakistan, India tussle over basmati rice origin

  • Pakistan produces a wide range of basmati rice and believes it has a right to a GI tag

KARACHI: Pakistan on Monday said it would give a “befitting reply” to, and oppose, India’s move to geographically label basmati rice and grain as its own in the EU.

Developing countries are increasingly using geographic labeling to boost the value of products ranging from carpets to rice, raising rural incomes and protecting farmland. 

A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographic origin, which gives them certain qualities or a reputation, such as Champagne and Darjeeling tea.

India applied for a GI for basmati rice last month. In a meeting chaired by commerce adviser Abdul Razak Dawood on Monday, Pakistan announced it would oppose India’s application.

“Abdul Razak Dawood categorically stated that Pakistan will vehemently oppose India’s application in the EU and restrain India from obtaining exclusive GI tag of basmati rice,” a statement issued by the ministry said.

Pakistan produces a wide range of basmati rice and believes it has a right to a GI tag. 

It now has under three months to respond to the Indian application and file a counter application with the EU. The country’s rice exporters face the risk of losing a substantial European market if India succeeds in the geographical labeling, exporters said.

“The GI tag going to India means Pakistan will be losing the European market, and that will not be limited to EU alone; we will not be able to export basmati rice to other countries as well,” Rafique Suleman, convener of the Central Committee of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and industry on Rice, told Arab News.

“Basmati rice is our heritage. The GI tag is an exclusive right to sell goods in the registered markets.”

Pakistan exported $2.17 billion worth of rice during the last fiscal year, of which the share of basmati rice was $790.8 million, 25 percent higher than the previous year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

According to the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), “Pakistan is recognized around the world for producing and exporting high quality and aromatic basmati rice.”

“REAP is the second largest export trade body of Pakistan after the textile sector, and contributes more than $2 billion per annum,” REAP said.

According to the Indian application published in the EU’s official journal on Sept. 11, 2020, basmati is a special long grain aromatic rice grown and produced in a particular geographical region of the Indian sub-continent, below the foothills of the Himalayas.

India’s move is a significant one, especially after the EU revised its rules for fungicides in crops, including rice, in 2018.

According to media reports, it caused New Delhi to lose a significant share in the EU market after tests showed that the basmati produced in India had higher levels of tricylazole, a pesticide that is sprayed on the crop to overcome fungal pests, than those permitted by the EU. 

Pakistan, however, had a lot to gain and nearly doubled its exports of the product from 2017 to 2018.

The name basmati is derived from two Sanskrit word roots, “vas” meaning “aroma” and “mati” meaning “ingrained from the origin,” the Indian application says, adding that the first recorded reference to basmati rice is found in the Punjabi poem “Heer Ranjha” by the poet Varis Shah in 1766.

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Six killed in Turkey as strong earthquake hits Aegean Sea, also hits Greece

Updated 30 October 2020

Six killed in Turkey as strong earthquake hits Aegean Sea, also hits Greece

  • Quake of up to 7.0 magnitude hits Turkey, Greek islands
  • Tidal waves send flood of debris inland

ISTANBUL: Six people were killed in Turkey after a strong earthquake struck the Aegean Sea on Friday, bringing buildings crashing down and setting off tidal waves which slammed into coastal areas and nearby Greek islands.
People ran onto streets in panic in the coastal city of Izmir, witnesses said, after the quake struck with a magnitude of up to 7.0 at around 1150 GMT. Some neighborhoods were deluged with surging seawater which swept a flood of debris inland and left fish stranded as it receded.
The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said six people died, one due to drowning, while 202 people were injured.
There were various reports of collapsed buildings with people stuck in the rubble in some of districts of Izmir, one of Turkey’s main tourist regions, and partial damage to property in other provinces, Turkish officials said.
Izmir mayor Tunc Soyer said around 20 buildings came down in the province. Izmir’s governor said 70 people had been rescued from under the rubble.
Ilke Cide, a doctoral student who was in Izmir’s Guzelbahce region during the earthquake, said he went inland after waters rose after the earthquake.
“I am very used to earthquakes... so I didn’t take it very seriously at first but this time it was really scary,” he said, adding the earthquake had lasted for at least 25-30 seconds.
Crisscrossed by major fault lines, Turkey is among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck Izmit, a city southeast of Istanbul. In 2011, a quake in the eastern city of Van killed more than 500.
Ismail Yetiskin, mayor of Izmir’s Seferihisar, said sea levels rose as a result of the quake. “There seems to be a small tsunami,” he told broadcaster NTV.
Footage on social media showed debris including refrigerators, chairs and tables floating through streets on the deluge. TRT Haber showed cars in Izmir’s Seferihisar district had been dragged by the water and piled on top of each other.
Idil Gungor, who runs a hotel in Izmir’s Seferihisar district, told broadcaster NTV that people were cleaning the debris after the floodwaters receded. She said fish had washed up on the garden of the hotel, around 50 meters from the shore.
Residents of the Greek island of Samos, which has a population of about 45,000, were urged to stay away from coastal areas, Eftyhmios Lekkas, head of Greece’s organization for anti-seismic planning, told Greece’s Skai TV.
“It was a very big earthquake, it’s difficult to have a bigger one,” said Lekkas.
High tidal wave warnings were in place in Samos, where eight people were lightly injured, according to a Greek official.
“We have never experienced anything like it,” said George Dionysiou, the local vice-mayor. “People are panicking.” A Greek police spokesman said there was damage to some old buildings on the island.
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece — which have been caught up in a bitter dispute over ownership of potential hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean — spoke by phone after the earthquake and said they were ready to help one another, Ankara said.
AFAD put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.6, while the US Geological Survey said it was 7.0. It was felt along Turkey’s Aegean coast and the northwestern Marmara region, media said.