YK Poudel

In an effort to support local agricultural and textile producers and overcome challenges in international markets, Bhutan is delving into the realm of Geographical Indication (GI) to identify and establish local premium products that can claim a national brand and gain international acclaim.

Under the guidance of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MoAL) and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE), Bhutan is making strides in implementing the GI protection system, with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

While Bhutan has yet to identify specific products for GI protection, a three-day national sensitisation workshop, that concluded yesterday, has paved the way for future endeavours. 

The workshop was attended by 25 participants from five ministries and 15 agencies associated with agricultural and textile production.

One example of a local product with great potential is fermented yak cheese from the highlands, which could compete in the global market with the added advantage of GI protection certifying its quality and unique production methods.

Chadho Tenzin, assistant FAO representative in Bhutan, emphasised the importance of raising awareness and understanding about GI’s potential for building a national GI system, particularly in light of Bhutan’s involvement in global trade organisations. “Considering the positive impact of GI in farming and its ability to address existing challenges,” he said, “FAO remains committed to the development of the GI system in the country.”

Stephane Passeri, a GI expert from the FAO Regional Office for the Asia Pacific Region, explained that a product could obtain GI certification once it meets the national standards set by the country. “The process and fees involved may vary, encompassing expenses for patents, trademarks, and copyrights,” he said. However, once a product complies with the national GI standards, it will gain recognition and acceptance worldwide. 


What exactly is the GI protection system? 

It is an intellectual property right that safeguards the name and origin-linked characteristics of products that have developed unique attributes. GI certification confirms the product’s origin as a reliable source and certifies certain qualities, production methods, or reputation associated with its geographical origin.


How does the GI protection system function? 

By highlighting manufacturing processes and unique characteristics, the GI system enables local products to gain international recognition. It encompasses elements such as brand names, production locations, and nutritional information, among others. The disclosure of manufacturing processes is crucial for consumer trust, product quality, and to prevent counterfeiting. Products are categorised using distinctive names and their specific places of origin, marking them as potential substitutes.

Currently, 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have enacted legislation for the GI protection system, including India, China, Thailand, Singapore, and Bangladesh. Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia are among the countries engaged in ongoing discussions about enacting such legislation.