Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Punjab spat over basmati rice GI tag

The spat between Madhya Pradesh and Punjab over the GI tag to basmati rice flared up with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan calling Punjab’s Amarinder Singh’s opposition to MP getting the tag ‘politically motivated’ and a move that hurts farmers.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan wrote to Congress Interim Chief Sonia Gandhi, accusing her party of being step-motherly towards farmers. In a letter, Chouhan alleged that Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s interference in the matter to deny the GI tag to basmati rice grown in MP is meant to deny MP farmers their rightful due, and that his representations in the matter are false and baseless.

Amarinder Singh, the Chief Minister of Punjab, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written few days back,  opposing Madhya Pradesh’s bid to acquire the GI tag (geographical indication) for basmati stating that any move to disturb the status quo will not only harm the interests of farmers and basmati exporters of India, but could also help Pakistan, which also produces basmati as per GI tagging in the international market.

MP CM Chouhan alleges that the Punjab Chief Minister’s letter was “politically motivated”. He asserted that GI tagging was a matter of pride for farmers and recognition of their years of toils.

“The matter should not be turned into a Punjab-versus-Madhya Pradesh tussle. GI tagging will provide stability to basmati prices in international markets and bolster our exports,” the MP CM said. “Basmati exporters of Punjab and Haryana are procuring basmati rice from MP. This is also supported by Government of India data of export from the Mandideep (industrial area), Madhya Pradesh,” he added.

The Punjab chief minister has alleged that MP’s move infringes the GI tagging procedure and laws.

The MP government and a basmati growers’ association had lost two separate cases in the court filed in 2016 to challenge the exclusion of the districts from a map submitted by the APEDA for the tags. Apart from Punjab, other states that already have GI tagging for basmati are Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, western UP, and select districts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Madhya Pradesh has sought inclusion of its 13 districts for GI tagging for basmati.

Exporters say granting the GI tag to basmati grown in Madhya Pradesh districts will lower its value in the international market, while MP contends its inclusion will benefit lakhs of farmers in getting better price for their produce.

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