WHAT IS A GI TAG? An intellectual property right enforced under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, GI is a tag assigned to an agricultural, natural or manufactured product from a region, such as the Kancheepuram silk sari or the Alphonso mango, given to producers. Darjeeling tea was the first product to be assigned GI tag in 200405. It’s issued for 10 years from Gwalior state that talks of basmati seeds being brought for cultivation from Dehradun. Then there is a report from the Directorate of Rice Development, Patna, which points to the cultivation of basmati in Central Provinces (now largely MP) in 1908, as well as documents showing allotment of breeder seeds of the basmati variety to MP and the results of trials at agricultural universities in the state.
These apart, the MP government is also presenting test reports of basmati grown in MP from reputed institutes such as the Centre for Basmati DNA Analysis, Hyderabad; Reliable Analytics Lab, Mumbai; and Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Jabalpur, affirming that the rice grown in MP conforms to APEDA’s norms for basmati. MP has also submitted maps highlighting specific areas within the state that have “agroclimatic, soil and temperature parameters” similar to that of regions in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Yet its claims have been rejected. “We have collected ample evidence of cultivation of basmati rice in MP,” says Rajesh Rajora, principal secretary for agriculture with the MP government. “We are confident that MP’s claims will be accepted by the GI registry.”
WHAT IF MP BASMATI DOES NOT GET THE GI TAG?
Were MP to not get the GI tag, not just the farmers, but several companies that have invested heavily in rice mills, will suffer. Besides LT Foods, Narmada Cereals and SSA International are two other prominent companies that procure and mill paddy them in MP. In addition, there are more than 15 other big and small rice mills that have been set up in the state in the last eight years, totalling an investment of Rs 300 crore, says Tiwari. These mills procure and process the paddy and send it to Kandla port from where it is exported.
“We do not understand the law but are keen that the farmers do better for themselves,” says Rajesh Singh of Hersili village in Raisen district who is also president of the Central Region Basmati Growers’ Association. “Basmati rice cultivation is our best option as other Kharif crops such as soyabean have been unsuccessful. The outcome of this debate is crucial to us.”