This article has been written by Poonam Nahar, pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho.
Table of Contents
India is a land of agriculture. As India is a developing country so as there is development in the agriculture sector of India. In recent times, there has been significant development of agricultural products by various techniques. Hence, this gave an idea for branding and protecting the products of agriculture. As a result, during the last two decades, the agricultural product industry has seen a significant move toward branding, which is a collection of tactics and marketing activities involved in building and managing market brands. Producers can use branding to establish market awareness, differentiate their products, and acquire legal protection. The inherent features of the product, as well as intangible or symbolic features, such as social status attributes or even the environmental sensitivity of its consumers, may be used to create a distinct identity for a brand. Geographical Indications (GIs) are one such brand identity aspect. The appropriate use of geographical indications (GIs) is a powerful branding tool with a high economic value. Geographical indications (GIs) offer local products a distinct character.
Since 2003, India has used the GI system to safeguard more than 200 high-quality items depending on their geographical origin. Agricultural products in India have long had access to GI-based branding tactics as a form of market protection and marketing, with examples including Kashmir saffron, Mysore silk, Kolhapuri chappal, and Solapur chaddar. In terms of Kashmir, the state has six GIs in handicrafts, which have already established enormous goodwill and reputation on a global scale, such as Kashmir Pashmina, Kanni shawl, Kashmiri Hand Knotted Carpet, Kashmir Walnut Wood Carving, and so on. However, unlike other states, Jammu & Kashmir has taken no steps to geographically indicate its agricultural products. Saffron is one agricultural commodity that should be quickly recognized as a GI in Kashmir, which includes a range of agricultural crops. ‘Kashmir saffron’ needs to be branded as Branding of saffron will allow saffron producers to achieve market recognition, differentiate their offerings, and gain legal protection and geographical indication can be the branding tool for it.
What is Geographical Indication (GI)?
Geographical indications or GIs are signs identifying goods that have a specific geographical origin or location like a region, town, or country and possess a given quality, reputation or another characteristic that is essentially attributable to that origin. They can be used for both agricultural and industrial products. GI helps the genuine producers to earn profit in the competitive market and enables the customers to buy products having superior quality. For instance; Darjeeling for Tea, Green Cardamom of Coorg, etc. You can find the link of GI tags here https://ipindia.gov.in/registered-gls.htm.
As per Section 2(1)(e) of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 a geographical indication pertains to agricultural, natural or manufactured goods, which originate and are produced/processed in a specific geographical territory, thereby associating a reputation for such territory.
According to Article 22 (I) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS), GI tags are “indications which identify a good as originating in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.”
GI Tag ensures that none other than those registered as authorized users are allowed to use the popular product name. In order to function as a GI, a sign must identify a product as originating in a given place.
GI tag of Kashmir saffron
Kashmir, also known as “Paradise on Earth,” is known for a variety of things, including scenic beauty, abundant wildlife, local handicrafts, and local cuisine. However, one of the most notable things that have helped put Kashmir on the map is its famous spice and health rejuvenator “Kashmir saffron,” which has recently received the much-anticipated Geographical Indication (GI) certification by the Geographical Indications Board. There are three types of saffron available in Kashmir: Lachha saffron, Mongra saffron, and Guchhi saffron.
Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in traditional products that are strongly tied to a certain place of origin, according to the dominating trend in agro-industrial markets. End-customers in both rich and developing nations are more likely to buy food or agro-industrial goods that are strongly anchored in diverse popular cultures, even if this means paying higher costs (UNIDO, Vienna Report 2010). Since then, Kashmiri saffron has been associated with elegance, sophistication, and hundreds of years of history. It should not be seen as merely another agricultural product, but rather as part of the region’s historic and cultural heritage, which must be conserved and safeguarded.
Saffron is generated from the stigmas of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus L.) and belongs to the Iridaceae family. It is the world’s oldest and most costly spice. The application for registration of “Kashmir saffron” as a GI was filed in respect of goods under class 30. Kashmiri saffron is cultivated and harvested in Karewa (highlands) and is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir around the 1st century BCE by Central Asian immigrants. It is the only saffron in the world that is grown at an altitude of 1,600 meters, thus making it exceptional and remarkable from the saffron grown in the other parts of the world.
Why should it be protected?
Kashmiri saffron has a rich cultural heritage and is very famous globally. It holds immense importance in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, perfumery, and the textile dye-producing industry. It is extensively used as a spice to add flavor to food and as a dye to color foods. It has also been associated with Kashmiri food cuisine. Pampore, the saffron capital of Kashmir, is expected to enjoy a bountiful harvest of the spice this season as a result of steps done by the National Mission on Saffron (NMS). The coloring strength (crocin concentration), odor (safranal), and taste of saffron determine its quality (picrocrocin). Safranal concentration is high in the finest saffron. The Kashmir saffron is famous worldwide due to its very high crocin & safranal content. The price of ‘Kashmir saffron is very high because of the high labor cost and for its world-famous quality & also depends on the country of origin. Hence, It is expected that this GI certification will help farmers in getting the best remunerative price and also help in preventing the prevalent practice of adulteration of saffron.
The following are the goals of ensuring effective protection of ‘Kashmir saffron’ as a GI, To:
- prevent misuse of the word Kashmir for saffron sold worldwide;
- deliver authentic ‘Kashmir saffron’ to consumers all over the world;
- allow the commercial benefits of the brand ‘Kashmir’ to reach legitimate saffron producers in Kashmir.
Kashmir saffron will acquire more significance in the international market with the GI label. GI products assist the tourism industry to grow by projecting a positive image of the place. It’s a useful market-access tool since it adds value to the items that are designated as such, allowing them to access more markets throughout the world. Producers will be able to promote distinct products with easily recognized qualities. And it may be employed in a product’s marketing plan both domestically and internationally.
The idea is to capitalize on nature’s immense allure during the bloom season, luring a large number of people to rural regions. The fields are located along the national highway, so travelers may see them anytime they arrive and go. It’s a great way to encourage rural development since it will assist saffron growers get a higher price for their product. It will bring value to the region of origin. It is also an excellent way to promote female employment. The Geographical Indication (GI) for “Kashmir saffron” is an indirect way to boost tourism in the region. By highlighting ancient sites, it might be the beginning point for agro-tourism growth. Kashmir saffron is used globally as a spice. It also helps in revitalizing health. It is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes.
The current crisis in the Kashmir saffron industry of India
Illegal saffron imports, purportedly from Iran, have wreaked havoc on the Kashmir saffron sector. “Iranian saffron is marketed under the Kashmiri brand name,” says G.M. Pampori, President of the Kashmir Saffron Growers Association. It is available not just in major Indian cities but even in Kashmir,” says the author. Because saffron cultivated in Iran is cheaper than saffron cultivated in Kashmir, many unscrupulous sellers pass it off as Kashmir saffron. Because of its special properties, saffron is one of the most adulterated items in Kashmir. The problem of product adulteration began in European countries and is now being done in Kashmir. Thousands of pounds of Iranian saffron are imported by various routes and blended with Kashmir saffron by several local vendors with established clients across India. The activity has been going on for years, and the profit from the bogus transaction is in the millions of dollars. A growing number of farmers in Kashmir’s saffron region are turning their saffron crops into apple orchards. Growers are forced to convert to fruit production since they do not receive acceptable prices for their goods.
In the agri-food business, GIs are a well-established source of differentiation and given market development patterns, they are expected to become even more popular in India. As agricultural and food goods have grown increasingly distinctive, India’s agri-food systems have seen a substantial move toward branding. For manufactured and processed food goods, branding methods have become an acknowledged aspect of marketing activity. However, there are still many unbranded food products on the market. GIs, which are becoming more popular as a branding technique for agricultural products, preserve the quality, reputation, or other characteristics of commodities that are primarily attributed to their location. Jammu and Kashmir have been dragging their feet on developing trademarks for agricultural items using geographical indication, yet the state has a lot of potential for adopting geographical indication for handicrafts and agricultural items like saffron. Saffron’s registration as a Geographical Indication is strongly supported by the reasons stated in this study. Saffron is grown in Kashmir, a geographical location with distinct geo-climatic conditions and traditional traditions. These give the product a one-of-a-kind value and prevent it from being replicated elsewhere. Saffron from Kashmir has large market potential, both domestically and internationally. However, due to adulteration, purportedly illegal imports from Iran, and inadequate marketing and branding practices, this sector remains mostly untapped. Branding of Kashmir saffron is required, and geographical identification may be used as a branding technique for Kashmir Saffron. Saffron farmers and processors may establish more successful enterprises by combining the GI of Kashmir saffron with a smart marketing scheme. It can assist in the development of a dependable and well-known brand for Kashmir saffron. The GI of saffron can help to increase consumer loyalty, product distinctiveness and distinctness, legal protections, and profit margins. The saffron business may profit from geographical indications in a correct way, ensuring the possibility to make the most of Geographical Indications at both the national and international levels.
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