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 Indian Basmati Rice Varieties in Pakistan

Context:

Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) scientists have raised concerns over the recent discovery of India’s prized basmati rice varieties, such as Pusa-1121 and 1509 Basmati, being found in Pakistan under different names. This mislabeling has sparked alarm among Indian experts, who are urging legal action to protect Indian farmers and exporters. The situation highlights the need for stringent measures to safeguard the authenticity and reputation of India’s renowned basmati rice varieties in international markets.

Relevance:

GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Illegal Cultivation of Indian Basmati Varieties in Pakistan
  2. Impact on the Global Basmati Market due to Illicit Cultivation in Pakistan
  3. Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001: Overview of Rights

Illegal Cultivation of Indian Basmati Varieties in Pakistan

  • The illegal cultivation of Indian basmati varieties in Pakistan, under renamed designations, has become a growing concern for Indian agricultural authorities. This practice undermines the rights of Indian farmers and breeders protected under national and international legislations.
Identification of Indian Basmati Varieties in Pakistan:
  • The cultivation of Indian basmati varieties in Pakistan began with Pusa Basmati-1121 (PB-1121), officially registered as ‘PK 1121 Aromatic’ in Pakistan.
  • Other popular IARI-bred varieties like Pusa Basmati-6 (PB-6) and PB-1509 have also been grown and renamed in Pakistan.
  • Recent improved varieties such as Pusa Basmati-1847 (PB-1847), PB-1885, and PB-1886, which are resistant to bacterial blight and rice blast fungal disease, have been identified in Pakistani fields.
Legal Framework in India:
  • The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (PPV & FR Act) protects the rights of Indian farmers and breeders to sow, save, re-sow, exchange, or share the seed/grain produced from registered varieties.
  • The Act prohibits the selling of seeds of protected varieties in branded form without the breeder’s rights, and all IARI-bred basmati varieties are registered under this Act.
  • The Seeds Act, 1966, and the Seeds Act of 1996, allow the cultivation of IARI varieties only within the officially demarcated Geographical Indication (GI) area of basmati rice in India.
Violation of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Bilateral Implications:
  • The unauthorised cultivation of protected basmati varieties in Pakistan potentially violates intellectual property rights (IPR) and contravenes national and international legal frameworks.
  • India can raise this issue in relevant bilateral forums and at the World Trade Organisation to safeguard the intellectual property rights of breeders and ensure the exclusive rights of Indian farmers to cultivate and trade in protected basmati varieties.

Impact on the Global Basmati Market due to Illicit Cultivation in Pakistan

  • The illegal cultivation of Indian basmati varieties in Pakistan not only infringes on intellectual property rights but also impacts the global basmati market dynamics. This illicit cultivation threatens India’s market dominance and poses challenges to maintaining quality and brand reputation in key export markets.
Effects on India’s Basmati Exports:
  • India’s basmati rice exports are poised to reach record levels, with projections indicating exports of 50 lakh tonnes worth $5.5 billion in the current fiscal year.
  • The cultivation of IARI-bred varieties, such as PB-1121, PB-1718, PB-1885, PB-1509, PB-1692, PB-1847, PB-1, PB-6, and PB-1886, underpins India’s basmati production and export volumes.
  • The illicit cultivation of these varieties in Pakistan raises concerns about the potential impact on India’s export volumes and revenues, as these varieties are a significant part of India’s basmati rice exports.
Competitive Landscape and Market Share:
  • Pakistan’s basmati exports have gained traction due to the depreciation of the Pakistani rupee, enabling competitive pricing in international markets.
  • Pakistan holds an 85% share of the EU-UK market, leveraging its competitive pricing advantage and posing a threat to India’s dominance in these key markets.
  • In contrast, India maintains dominance in markets such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other West Asian countries, where consumers prefer parboiled rice with harder grains that are less susceptible to breakage during cooking.
Threat to Brand Reputation and Quality Assurance:
  • The piracy of Indian basmati varieties by Pakistan undermines India’s brand reputation and quality assurance standards, potentially leading to a dilution of the basmati brand and consumer trust in Indian basmati rice.

Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001: Overview of Rights

Breeders’ Rights:
  • Exclusive Rights: Breeders are granted exclusive rights over the protected varieties they develop. This includes the rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import, or export these varieties.
  • Appointment of Agents/Licensees: Breeders have the authority to appoint agents or licensees to carry out activities related to their protected varieties.
  • Civil Remedies: Breeders have the right to seek civil remedies for infringement of their rights, ensuring legal protection against unauthorized use or reproduction of their protected varieties.
Researchers’ Rights:
  • Research Use: Researchers can utilise registered varieties for experimentation or research purposes, facilitating advancements in plant breeding and agricultural research.
  • Variety Development: Researchers can initially use a protected variety to develop another variety. However, repeated use of a protected variety for developing new varieties requires prior permission from the registered breeder, ensuring respect for breeders’ rights.
Farmers’ Rights:
  • Protection and Recognition: Farmers who have evolved or developed new plant varieties are entitled to registration and protection similar to breeders, acknowledging their contribution to agricultural biodiversity and innovation.
  • Seed Saving and Exchange: Farmers can save, use, exchange, share, or sell farm produce, including protected varieties, subject to certain conditions. This ensures farmers’ access to seeds and promotes agricultural sustainability.
  • Conservation Incentives: Recognition and rewards are provided for farmers’ conservation efforts related to plant genetic resources, encouraging sustainable agricultural practices and biodiversity conservation.
  • Compensation Provisions: In cases where protected varieties fail to perform as expected, compensation provisions exist for farmers, safeguarding their interests and investments in agricultural production.
  • Fee Exemption: Farmers are exempt from paying fees in proceedings under the Act before relevant authorities or courts, ensuring access to justice and legal protection without financial burden.

-Source:  The Hindu


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