CHIANGRAI – Thai jasmine rice, also known as “Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai,” will become the first product in Southeast Asia to be registered under the European Union’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) scheme.
The Director-General of the Department of Intellectual Property, Mrs. Pajchima Tanasanti, said that the European Union would soon officially grant its recognition for the Hom Mali rice from Thung Kula Ronghai. It is now in the process of drafting the announcement in the various
languages used in the European Union.
PGI covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing, or preparation has to take place in the area. Thailand submitted its application for the scheme in 2008. It has spent almost five years campaigning in order to win the PGI recognition.
Initially, five countries – Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France – opposed Thailand’s PGI registration, saying that Thailand should not be the only country allowed to register Hom Mali rice as other countries could also grow it. Thailand explained that Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai is a unique rice variety and can grow in a limited area only.
Mrs. Pajchima said that Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai would be the third non-EU product in the world, after Indian tea and Colombian coffee, to receive this form of geographical indication protection. The Ministry of Commerce will organize an activity to welcome the recognition of Thai jasmine rice during the visit of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to Belgium in early March 2013.
According to Mrs. Pajchima, after the PGI registration, Thailand will be able to display the EU certification on Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai, which will help make it better known internationally. This will also contribute to Thai rice exports and benefit Thai farmers. EU consumers attach importance to products with PGI, since they come from specific areas.
The brand of Hom Mali is also well known worldwide, especially in the high-end market. Thung Kula Ronghai, or Weeping Prairie, in northeastern Thailand, is a major area for the cultivation of Hom Mali rice. The area spreads over five northeastern provinces: Roi-Et, Maha Sarakham, Surin, Si Sa Ket, and Yasothon.
Hom Mali rice is Thailand’s premium commodity. It is not only one of the best species in the world but it is also the most popular export, and at present, Thailand is its sole producer and exporter.
Each year, Thailand produces approximately three million tons of Hom Mali rice, or 10% of its total rice production, 75% of which is for local consumption while 25% is for export. Hom Mali rice is a major economic commodity that earns Thailand over 20 billion baht in export value, or 25-30% of the total rice export value.
Its major importers are Asia and the United States (60% and 20% respectively). The rest is shipped to Europe, Africa, and Oceania.
Two more Thai products are seeking PGI certification from the European Union. They are Doi Chang and Doi Tung coffee varieties grown in the northern province of Chiang Rai. If there are no objections, these two products are likely to be registered on the PGI list within the next six months.
The Department of Intellectual Property also plans to apply with the European Union for geographical indication protection for Sang Yot rice from the southern province of Phatthalung.