Karachi – Staff Reporter:
Officials say the government has prioritized pink salt and two types of mangos, the chaunsa and the sindhri, for Geographical Indication (GI) registration, following a move by arch-rival India to approach the European Union in 2018 claiming an exclusive GI tag for basmati rice – a commodity grown in both countries.
Developing countries are increasingly using geographic labeling to boost the value of products ranging from carpets to rice, raising rural incomes and protecting farm land. 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 sparkling wine from Champagne and tea from Darjeeling.
Pakistan’s Geographical Indications (Registration and Protection) Act, 2020 went through parliamentary approval last year, and its rules were issued in December 2020.
“The ministry of commerce along with the relevant bodies is taking a step-by-step approach to register 79 products identified under the law for GI registration,” Aisha Humera, a spokesperson for the commerce ministry said.
Pakistan has listed basmati rice as the first product for a GI tag among 79 products the country has identified for registration, she said. Other products include Khairpur dates, Kunnri red chillis, Hunza peaches, Sindhi ajrak block printing, and Peshawari chappal shoes.
“The country had prioritized four products for Geographical Indication registration, out of which the registration of basmati rice was completed in January this year,” said Meesaq Arif, executive director at the Intellectual Property Organization of Pakistan (IPO-Pakistan). “Now on the priority list, the products in line for GI are Khewra pink salt, Multani chaunsa and Sindhri mango … The process of registration is underway and will be completed as soon as the statutory bodies (owners of GI tag) approach IPO.”
According to the GI Act 2020, the federal government is the holder and exclusive owner of all geographical indications of Pakistan.
“The ownership of basmati rice, Multani chaunsa and sindhri mango rests with the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan while the GI of pink salt will be owned by Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation,” Arif added. “The GI tag will be very helpful for export because it will be supported by a certificate of origin.”
Officials say geographical labeling will play an “effective role” in the economic uplift of the country, its global image and trade in the international market
“In the international market when the GI will be registered for Pakistan it will increase the value of the GI tagged product as it gives the identity to the product which exclusively belongs to us and our region,” the IPO executive director said. “With the GI tag we can fix the price of the product. The products will attract premium prices and will have legal backing abroad as they will be registered abroad as well.”
But experts say the country is far behind other countries in giving global recognition to its local products, for years causing huge losses to Pakistan.
“Pakistan is already too late in registration of local products, which has caused irreparable financial losses to Pakistani traders and industrialists,” said Shaikh Rashid Alam, the CEO of the Brands Foundation.
“Many countries, including India, have already acquired GI tags and they are earning billions of dollars through the exercise of exclusive rights. Pakistan still has a large number of products that could be potentially picked up for GI identification.”