Kashmir Traders Echo Fear Of Brand Kashmir Hijack

15 April 2009
Rising Kashmir

Srinagar: Claiming that hotelier in Mumbai is offering Wazwaan and simultaneously training the would-be chefs on how to prepare the world famous Kashmiri cuisine, food processing unit holders are seeking Geographical Indication (GI) status for the cuisine. “We have reports that in Mumbai’s Andheri West, a Kashmir-born migrant Pandit has been training people about the preparations of Wazwaan. That too from the past five years,” Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Secretary Ovees Qadir Jamie said. Jamie said that trend is dangerous and demands immediate GI Status, because the fear of Wazwaan imitation is real and equally of disturbing nature. “There is a fear that the art of cookery could be imitated,as has already been done. And if it ever happened at large scale, the indigenous Wazaan’s future would be at stake,” he said. Relishing world famous Kashmiri cuisine, Wazwaan has been one of the major attractions for anyone visiting the Valley; however, the fear of imitation is increasingly pushing industrialists involved with the food processing to seek the GI status. “Wazwaan is a product of Kashmir. It needs GI status. Because otherwise there are chances that someone will claim that the product was invented by him,” said FCIK President Shakeel Qalander. Qalander said that anyone can come up with Rs 500-600 crore processing unit and start preparation of what is basically Kashmir’s creation. Another item that is facing imitation under Kashmir label is Kashmir Chilli which, according to the FCIK, has been faked by some ‘miscreants’ in Karnataka. “Some traders are selling chilli on the name of Kashmir chilli. We must stop it. Or else from a local grower to processor, everyone will be at loss,” said Director, Sales and Marketing, Kanwal Food and Spices, Farooq Amin. Amin said that without buying Kashmir’s chilli, exporters in Karnataka are selling their product, Bydagi chilli under the tag ‘Kashmir’ which has not only eaten up Kashmir’s market at international level but has also brought a bad reputation to Kashmiri chilies that have otherwise stunning properties than any of its counterpart. To mention, Bydagi chilli, a variety of chilli mainly grown in northern districts of Karnataka, is reported to get its own geographical indication (GI) certification soon. “Here you can see the irony. Our administration and government is sitting idle while people are using the name Kashmir on their product and getting away with GI status on their own products,” he added. He said that the same fate has been meted out to the Kashmir’s honey which an agency in Amritsar is faking by exporting Punjabi honey under the tag ‘Kashmir’ on it. Meanwhile, realizing the time taken to reach for the status, FCIK has suggested that ‘Exclusive Marketing Rights’ be given to industrialists, until GI certification is issued on these products. “It is happening in USA and elsewhere. There they have Food and Drug Authority (FDA) that gives exclusive marketing rights to industries until GI certification on the product that they deal with is reached out,” FCIK, Secretary Ovees Qadir Jamie said. The authorities, however, are presenting a different picture. “Wazwaan is an unorganized sector and it may need more industries to come up so that we can proceed with the issue of GI status,” said Director Industries and Commerce Farooq Ahmad. Ahmad, however, said that the department is at its level making plans of getting the cuisine GI certified. On the issue of Karnataka grown chilli being exported on the name of Kashmir, he said the department has no reports about it. “Had it been so, the industrialists concerned with processing of the spice should have visited the department over the issue,” he said.