Chapter: Geographical Indication
- Which body initiated the process of obtaining a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Matti Bananas?
Madurai Agribusiness Incubation Forum – Intellectual Property Facilitation Centre (MABIF – IPFC)has facilitated the filling of the GI Tag of Matti Banana. MABIF- IPFC is supported and funded by the Ministry of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Government of India. Whereas MABIF is an incubation facility created by NABARD and TNAU housed at TNAU, Madurai.
Currently through IPFC of NABARD MABIF has facilitated the filling of 38 Plant varieties developed by TNAU, 50 Trademarks, 15 patents and 6 Geographical Indications in Tamil Nadu.
MABIF-IPFC as a facilitator has filled 6 GIs so far (Tuticorin Macaroon, Authoor betel leaves, Madurai Marikolundhu (davana), Cumbum Grapes, Vilachery Clay Toys and Kanyakumari Matti banana) and 5 GIs in the progress of filling in a month time.
- Talking only about Tamil Nadu, there is a large variety of bananas grown there, like Robusta, Virupakshi, Red Banana, Poovan etc to name a few. What was the reason behind choosing the Matti banana variety for Geographical Indication (GI) protection?
Geographical Indications are signs that aid in the identification of a particular product coming from a specific geographical location possessing certain unique qualities or reputation due to such origin. While filing GI application, uniqueness, historical records, proof of origin, how the produce is linked to the place are important. Concerning the Matti Banana, the region of the banana-growing areas is mostly a reason for its unique quality traits and its taste.
The historical records and research findings had shown that Matti Banana has a distinct morphological character compared to other cultivars. Matti Banana fruit apex was 2.5 – 3 cm long and looks like the mouth of a Crocodile. It is also called “Crocodile Finger Banana”.
The Matti Banana has unique traits as well as medicinal properties. More importantly, reducing the area of cultivation, increasing the price and reducing the number of producers day on the day has prompted MABIF-IPFC to work on Matti Banana with guidance from NABARD and TNAU. Moreover, MABIF-IPFC also exploring opportunities to file potential GI banana cultivars in Tamil nadu.
- How involved were the farmers in the entire process? Did they have any knowledge about what a Geographical Indication (GI) is and how such a tag could benefit them?
MABIF – IPFC had intensely persuaded the producer of Matti Banana to go for GI tag; which will redeem the cultivar from the verge of extinction by bringing recognition through linking place, product and people. Consequently, the producers were convinced to form an association with support from MABIF IPFC and an NGO. Since association formed by producer will increases the chances of obtaining GI as well as the same will enable the producer to manage themselves. Hence, MABIF-IPFC had involved the producers and other stakeholders of Matti Banana right from the initial groundwork on the feasibility of obtaining to filling the GI, intending to enunciate the importance of GI to the producer and other stakeholders.
Farmers cultivating Matti Banana are mostly from hilly regions. Our studies revealed very low awareness about the GI tag protection and its benefits in the Matti Banana cultivating areas. There was also a general feeling that it is the traders who reap benefits out of the GI tag and not the farmers.
- The producers of Geographical Indication (GI) goods have the option of registering themselves as authorized users under the GI Act. Are the farmers aware of such provisions and do you think it is feasible for an ordinary farmer to obtain such a registration?
Presently, Producers are understanding the benefits of GI Tag; in another couple of years, there will be widespread awareness among the producer, consumers and everyone in the value chain on GI. However, the awareness of authorized users of GI is very less among the producers (even in those regions where the GI Tag is granted).
Nevertheless, handholding and mentoring support are required for producers to obtain the authorised user certificate from the GI registry. MABIF IPFC is helping producers to obtain authorised users. To obtain the status, the producers have to pay Rs.10 and has to obtain a no-objection certificate from Association applied for the GI status.
- Was the application process seamless and smooth? What hurdles if any were faced while applying for the Geographical Indication (GI)? Are there any bureaucratic glitches that act as a hurdle in registration?
The GI application process is smooth and hassle-free. The process for registration is made crystal clear by the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDTM) on the process, documents needed, timelines as well as renewals on its website.
To file the GI application, the applicant has to go through offline mode. Once an organization applies, the application will be uploaded to the digital platform of the GI registry. Anyone can assess the status of GI. After preliminary examination by the GI registry, a Formality Check Report (FCR) will be published and issued to the contact address to address the deficiency in the application. The applicant shall furnish the details sought in the FCR to GI Registry in a stipulated time. After the final examination by GI consultative group, the application will be published in the GI Journal. The certificated will be granted if there is no opposition. There were no bureaucratic glitches throughout the process.
- What are the potential challenges that may be faced in the enforcement of the GI tag, especially for a product like bananas, which in most cases are sold without any packaging, and there are more chances of other varieties of bananas being passed off as Matti bananas in the market?
The potential challenges realizing the benefits/ enforcement of GI Tag for Matti Banana are as follows:
- Lack of formal organizational structures and/or control mechanisms
- Limited Consumer Awareness of GI
- Lack of producer/artisan/Authorized user database
- Identification of markets with new customer segments and revenue streams.
- Low Share in the value chain for producer
- Uncertainty and price risk
- GI status not exploited post-registration.
- Lack of proper monitoring of quality and compliance
- Low level of online presence/e-marketing initiatives
- Need for financial support for marketing
- Limited production capacity
- Requirement of support in form of space, equipment, R&D, Technical and Design Inputs.
Owing to the unique morphological character of the Matti Banana (esp. fruit apex which is 2.5-3 cm, which is unique and has few other Nutritional compositions), there shall be difficulties in claiming other Bananas as Matti Banana.
Vinoth Rajendran is a patent specialist and assistant manager at NABARD MABIF Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Drawing on his food science degree and related work experience he manages patent and trademark portfolios and has prepared and filed 7 GI applications for Tamil Nadu. Recently he has filed a GI application for Ambasamudram Choppu Saman (wooden toys).
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