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PAKISTAN has said that it  will ‘vehemently’ oppose India’s application to the EU for sole geographical indication (GI) status for its homegrown long-grain aromatic basmati rice as it will ‘adversely affect Pakistani exporters’.

GI status is used to mark a product out to consumers as having “qualities, reputation or characteristics relating to its place of origin”.

In Europe, products such as Parma ham, champagne and stilton cheese have such a status, allowing producers from the respective regions to charge higher prices.

Since 2006, the EU has applied zero tariffs on rice imported into the bloc that has been authenticated by either Pakistani or Indian authorities as genuine basmati. About two-thirds of basmati imports to the EU are from India and the rest from its northern neighbour.

According to the Indian application basmati grown in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, specific districts of western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have special characteristics.

India’s application prompted an emergency meeting of Pakistan’s commerce secretary, the chair of the country’s intellectual property organisation, representatives of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, and senior legal advisers to the government, reported The Guardian.

Abdul Razak Dawood, an adviser to Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, subsequently said the application would be “vehemently opposed”. A formal objection is expected before the EU’s December deadline.

Pakistan’s exports of basmati rice to the EU have more than doubled in the last three years, from 120,000 metric tons in 2017 to 300,000 metric tons in 2019, according to the European commission.

India’s exports of basmati rice have been shrinking owing to a failure of its producers to meet increasingly strict EU standards on the use of pesticides.

India exports basmati rice to Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East.

“The commission has published the application for registration of the name ‘basmati’ from India as a proposed protected geographical indication. This publication gives the opportunity for stakeholders to lodge oppositions for a three-month period,” a spokesman for the European commission told The Guardian.

“This publication does not imply the registration of ‘basmati’ but is a step in the standard geographical indication registration procedure. The final decision on registration is only taken after the opposition phase has been completed. This allows the rights of all parties to be respected in the registration process.”