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APEDA Seeks Stakeholder Input on UK's New Trade Rules for Basmati Rice

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) will have in-depth discussions with the All-India Rice Exporters' Association, major exporters, specialists, and other stakeholders about the United Kingdom's new code of practice (CoP) paper on basmati rice.

Shivam Dwivedi
APEDA Seeks Stakeholder Input on UK's New Trade Rules for Basmati Rice
APEDA Seeks Stakeholder Input on UK's New Trade Rules for Basmati Rice

APEDA will review the CoP agreements and provisions in order to assess the short and long-term effects on India's basmati exports, if any. APEDA stated that it was brought forth by the British Retail Consortium and The Rice Association, UK, the UK rice sector's representative organization.

"Its major goal is to promote members' interests in all areas relevant to the import, preparation, processing, packing, and marketing of rice. This was also discussed with the Federation of European Rice Millers (FERM), AIREA, and the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP)," according to the authorities. It said that the CoP was not a regulatory instrument, but rather an agreement reached by the groups regarding basmati rice trading in the UK. AIREA, India's largest basmati export association, was involved in the creation of the CoP.

"The CoP's scope was confined to labelling of basmati rice marketed in the UK, and it is a voluntary rule. Those who choose not to comply with its standards must achieve similar minimal legal requirements to ensure that their basmati rice is legitimate," APEDA stated.

According to the administration, the CoP lists cultivars that have been certified by Indian and Pakistani authorities. It includes the majority of the popular basmati cultivars notified under the requirements of the Indian Seeds Act of 1966. Several newly-notified basmati varietals have been included in the new CoP. APEDA stated that four varieties- Malviya Basmati Dhan, Pant Basmati 1, Vallabh Basmati 21 and Vallabh Basmati 24-were not being cultivated as part of the CoP.

As a result, exports will be unaffected. However, the removal of Punjab basmati from the list appeared to be an oversight, as India did not have such a notified variety. "All the recognized varieties with Punjab Basmati as a prefix have some numerical as a suffix in the varietal name such as Punjab Basmati 1, 2, 3 etc and so has no impact on Indian basmati exports," it stated. Regarding the dilution of the growing area, notably the Indo-Gangetic Plains, APEDA stated, "The document has also referred to the Food Standards Agency's February 2003 publication as the basis for the Code, with the emphasis on 'specific parts of Indo Gangetic Plains."

Concerning the lack of consultation with APEDA over the new CoP, basmati Geographical Indication (GI) tag expert S Chandrasekaran, the authority stated, "it would have been prudent on the part of the UK Association to discuss the CoP document with APEDA as owner of the basmati GI tag which is also registered in UK." According to APEDA, the Basmati name and emblem have been registered as a Certification Trade Mark (CTM) in the United Kingdom. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has set the purity criteria for DNA fingerprints, which will be implemented soon, according to the body.

APEDA agreed with AIREA that the new CoP will boost India's position in the UK basmati market. Chandrasekaran, when contacted, stated that basmati GI is a geopolitical issue concerning the country's boundary and sovereignty. Because the code is voluntary, the CoP states that those who do not adopt it must "meet the same minimal legal requirements" for the rice to be authentic. "The voluntary nature is being made indirectly mandatory," he explained. "The new CoP has strategic ramifications for the fragrant rice's ownership. If a precedent is established by changing the label of basmati (by any other organization or foreign organization), it promotes similar activities in the future if it serves a certain goal," Chandrasekaran explained.

About the deletion of varieties, he worried what would happen if the CoP eliminated an active commercial variety in the future, despite the fact that it has only done away with a non-commercial one. "It will have major consequences in North-West India." Furthermore, by accepting the DNA testing technique now, India forfeits the opportunity to challenge the delisting of varieties in the future," the expert explained.

About the dilution of the Indo-Gangetic Plain designation, Chandrasekaran stated that Nepal has objected to India's application for a Basmati GI tag in the European Commission. "There must be some explanation for the shift in position in the area." For example, the Code of Practice for Basmati Rice (CoP) established by the United Kingdom in June 2017 did not include Himachal Pradesh and Delhi as growing areas," he explained.

Himachal State and Delhi were initially included in APEDA's submission to the GI Registrar. "Why were these locations dropped from the CoP 2017? Removing the varieties and growing zones sets a precedent that other countries may follow in the future," he added. DEFRA also funds the DNA testing procedure established by the University of Bangor in Wales. "It is critical to challenge the procedure."

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