Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday termed “politically motivated” his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh’s appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene against the State’s claim for geographical indication (GI) tag for basmati rice.
Mr. Chouhan condemned a letter written by Mr. Singh to Mr. Modi and wondered what animosity he nursed towards farmers of Madhya Pradesh, which sought the tag in 13 districts. “This is not an issue of Punjab or Madhya Pradesh, it’s a subject concerning the whole country’s farmers and their livelihoods,” Mr. Chouhan wrote in Hindi on Twitter.
The Punjab Chief Minister had contended the GI tagging of Madhya Pradesh basmati rice would negatively impact the State’s agriculture and India’s exports. Further, he claimed any dilution of registration might give advantage to Pakistan, which also produced basmati as per GI tagging, in the international market in terms of basmati characteristics, quality parameters.
"The case of APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) with Pakistan has no relationship with claims of Madhya Pradesh as it is under the the GI Act of India and is not linked to inter-country claims of basmati rice,” said Mr. Chouhan.
‘Matter of pride’
Stating that GI tagging was a matter of pride for farmers and a recognition of their hard work over the years, Mr. Chouhan said, “It should not be made into a Punjab vs. Madhya Pradesh tussle. GI tagging allotment will provide stability to basmati prices in international markers and boost our exports.”
Capt. Singh had argued Madhya Pradesh’s move violated the GI tagging procedure and laws, to which Mr. Chouhan retorted, “Madhya Pradesh has a written recorded history since 1908 of basmati production in 13 districts. Records of supplying seeds to farmers in Madhya Pradesh in the year 1944 is found in the records of Scindia State.”
Further, Mr. Chouhan pointed out the Indian Institute of Rice Research, Hyderabad, had recorded production of basmati rice in their Production Oriented Survey Report for the last 25 years. “Basmati Exporters from Punjab and Haryana are procuring basmati rice from Madhya Pradesh. This is also supported by Government of India data of export from Mandideep, Madhya Pradesh,” said Mr. Chouhan.
In June, Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Minister Kamal Patel had said the government would approach the Supreme Court to challenge a Madras High Court’s ruling in the matter of not providing the tag to the State's basmati rice-growing regions. The State government and a basmati growers’ association had lost two separate cases in the court filed in 2016, challenging the exclusion of the districts from a map submitted by the APEDA for the tags.