After Punjab asked the centre not to give geographical indication or GI tag to basmati rice grown in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has written back to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi complaining against her party leader and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
A GI tag recognises a product as distinctive to a particular locality or region. For example, several varieties of "Darjeeling tea" have GI tags and they can hold that title only if grown in Darjeeling.
"It saddens me to tell you that the Chief Minister of Congress-ruled Punjab Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking not to give GI tag to basmati rice grown in Madhya Pradesh… That letter is unfortunate. What Amarinder Singh ji asking is anti-farmer and it shows the Congress's anti-farmer nature," Mr Chouhan said in the letter.
"You must be aware that Madhya Pradesh's basmati rice has a great taste and is known in the country and the world for its good aroma. Giving GI tag to Madhya Pradesh basmati rice will enhance the value of Indian basmati in the international market and will also benefit the whole country in trade," said Mr Chouhan, who recently tested positive for COVID-19. He has been discharged from hospital now.
In his letter to PM Modi, Amarinder Singh said proliferation of GI tags to any more state will dilute the market value of basmati rice and harm the interest of exporters. Other states that have GI tags for basmati are Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi, and some parts in western Uttar Pradesh and a few districts in Jammu and Kashmir.
Amarinder Singh said any dilution of GI tag registration may end up with Pakistan taking advantage in the international market. Pakistan also grows GI tagged basmati rice for sale in the global market.
Countering this argument, Mr Chouhan said, "The case of APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) with Pakistan has no relationship with Madhya Pradesh's claim as it is under the GI Act of India. It is not connected to inter-country claims of basmati rice."
The Madhya Pradesh government and a basmati growers' association have already lost two separate court cases filed in 2016 to challenge the exclusion of districts from a map submitted by the APEDA for getting GI tags.