Opinion

Developing more GI horticulture products

N Lalitha | Updated on February 26, 2020 Published on February 26, 2020

The GI tag needs to be popularised   -  K R DEEPAK

The ‘One Product One District’ initiative can be dovetailed with promoting geographically unique produce, as in Thailand

One of the action plans mentioned in the Budget speech of the Finance Minister on February 1 was about adopting a One Product One District (OPOD) approach, for the promotion of the horticulture sector. The OPOD concept has been in practice in Japan as OVOP (One Village One Product) and as OTOP (One Tambon One Product) in Thailand and has contributed to the rural development strategy in both the countries. Both OVOP and OTOP emphasise on local yet global products, local knowledge, self-reliance, creativity, human resources development and improving the employment and income for the community as a whole.

This article proposes to link OPOD with the unique Geographical Indications (GI) registered products of India, by drawing pointers from the concept of OTOP of Thailand. A product gets GI registration if the product has a ‘link’ with the region, which provides the uniqueness to the product. GI is a community right and available to all the producers within the specific region. Products registered with GI include agricultural and a host of textile and handicraft products that represent the pride and heritage of the region and can trigger the local economy if they turn commercially viable.

Thailand’s strategy

In Thailand, the Ministry of Interior, Community Development works in a targeted manner for the promotion of OTOP, with budgetary support from the government. Self-help groups (SHGs) with identified products can register themselves online for the selection under OTOP. Community development workers (CDWs) in that area would work with the community to evaluate the quality, knowledge, capacity and the level of support required to make the final product.

Based on the assessment by the CDW, depending on the contribution of the SHGs and their requirement, the government extends the necessary support to the SHGs through the village development fund. To inculcate quality consciousness among the OTOPs, products are identified based on the number of stars. A product with five stars indicates best quality, one with four indicates the next best quality, and so on. The CDWs work with the SHGs to reach the five-star status.

The use of star symbols to identify quality has recognition among consumers. The OTOP logo is prominently displayed in all strategic points to attract the attention of the consumers.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that OTOP has become a common household name that every Thai recognises.

The OPOD scheme may try to replicate the OTOP strategy on the already registered agricultural/horticulture GIs. If the OPOD proposal is to be implemented in letter and spirit, it is essential to form and strengthen the farmer producer organisation (FPO) for each of the identified products; create awareness regarding GI registration and its benefits; and emphasise on improving the human resources to provide technical knowledge to progress with the quality standards along the entire supply/value chain.

It is to be seen how much of financial resources would be available for the different products. FPOs formed and functioning in the style of Sahyadri Farmers Producers Co Ltd, Nashik, ensures success and serve the farmers.

Forming FPOs also serves the purpose of identifying the authorised users of the GI tag, which is pending in majority of the GI registered products. Further, only the authorised users can initiate action against any infringement of the registered GI.

As has been demonstrated in the OVOP and OTOP cases, improving the human resources in the technical and managerial spheres is important to ensure traceability of the product to get wider access to the market.

In the present context, while exporters of horticultural products adhere to traceability, consumers in the domestic market do not have any assurance of the quality, though certified organic products are an exception. Both the domestic and export markets can be widened by emphasising on quality and widely publicising the products through the common logo for GI products.

Farmers do not get a fair deal at the time of sales for their unique products. Hence, the marketing of OPOD/GI products should focus on popularising the logo to assure the consumers of the quality of the products and these products may be marketed through exclusive outlets so that the OPOD/GI products are not competing with similar products on price but quality. By helping the farmers to cater to a niche market based on quality, OPOD/GI products can help in improving farm income.

The writer is Professor, Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad

Published on February 26, 2020
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