Should India’s efforts to secure a Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the European Union (EU) for the export of basmati rice be successful, Pakistan stands to lose out on a market that profits at an average of $800 million to $1 billion on a yearly basis. Given this opportunity cost, the need to oppose such a decision from being taken in the EU is irrefutable. Additionally, to compete against India, which has strategically branded itself well in the international community, we will have to market one of our prime exports as aggressively as possible so that the notion of a sole point of origin does not solidify.

A GI is a sign that is used on agricultural products to identify its place of origin and associate a certain standard of quality to it. They help manufacturers by advancing sales and giving credibility to their product. As such, if the current market share of basmati rice supports a 65 to 35 ratio in favour of India, a GI could assist by making the rice an exclusive export of India alone. Thus, if we are not meticulous enough in our approach, we will lose our market share, experience a drop in foreign exchange rates and see important business go to Indian companies instead.

Despite what seem like bleak circumstances, many countries within the EU buy basmati rice from Pakistan exclusively. As such, the potential to increase exports within the domain of the EU, and beyond, still remains very high so long as we are able to utilise the best marketing strategies that differentiate our product from India’s. Not only would this dispel any perception of India being the sole point of origin for the export but it will also increase our footprint in the international market and establish Pakistan as one of the forerunners of the industry. Our primary aim as of now should be to ensure that our product reaches the right exporters and the right retailers so that we can maximise our potential.