Geographical Indication And the Struggle of Bandel Cheese

Geographical indications mean any indications which define the goods as originating in the territory of a country or a region or locality in that territory, taking into consideration the quality reputation along with other characteristics of the product that are attributable to its geographical origin. thereby concluding that the geographical indications have to indicate that a product of a particular origin has a certain quality or reputation or nearly other characteristics, which is fundamentally attributable to its geographical origin. India has about 300 registered GIs to date however, only a few have been used for commercial value addition.

Two of India’s famous GIs are Darjeeling tea and Basmati rice, but both seem to be minimal in terms of market impact when compared with other famous GIs like Chilean wine or Danish cheese. While a program to endorse, brand, and commercialize the GI products for exports has been introduced in the Directorate General of Foreign Trade policies during 2015-20, it is pertinent to take it to the next level.

India has a variety of GIs that can be endorsed as agriculture value-added products, Alphonso mango, Darjeeling tea, Basmati rice, etc., and intensify them to the stature of California almonds or Swiss chocolates in terms of global acceptability. The products can be displayed at busy airports or by promoting such products through food festivals and Indian Embassies abroad can act as a catalyst in guiding and encouraging top chefs to highlight such products. For instance, the Dutch Embassy in New Delhi supports Dutch food producers in exploring Indian markets and bringing awareness about their expertise.

Many countries have opted for bunching, which is at the root of branding agricultural commodities and adding value to products. Initially, this was started by France for wine, and soon after many other countries followed—Japan for Kobe beef, Colombia for Juan Valdez coffee, and New Zealand for Manuka honey. Festivals and branding programs like Malaysia’s best are a way of advertising and promote Malaysia’s commodity. It cannot be ignored that adequate budgetary allocations on the way to aggressive branding and packaging can encourage producers and exporters to.

Vasco da Gama was the first Portuguese to visit India and almost a century later the Portuguese started making inroads into Bengal. Later on, settlements came up along the rivers and settled across the Hooghly river turning it into a Portuguese stronghold. In the year 1599, a church was constructed on the banks of the Hooghly at Bandel, it is considered the oldest Christian Church of West Bengal.

The story of Bandel Cheese is as beautiful as the cheese itself. Traditionally, orthodox Hindus considered split milk unholy and not fit to serve Gods. The Portuguese settlers employed locals as cooks. Over the years, these cooks combined local cuisine with continental dishes, and only after a few experimenting the curdling technique was discovered. Further innovation led to the invention of Bandel Cheese.

Bandel Cheese happens to be invincible or supreme even before the beloved Bengali sweets made with Chhana including the famous Sandesh and rosgolla. Portuguese were among the earliest Europeans to arrive in Bengal, however, they never succeeded in establishing a stronghold settlement. Nevertheless, they did enrich the land and taught the art of cheese making which has survived over centuries despite all odds. Bandel Cheese is known for its dry, crumbly, and smoky flavor. Also, it is highly aromatic and fresh as it is sold in circular flats, straight from the production house. They are great for a salad, pasta, or risotto.

As weird as it may seem, Bandel Cheese is both friable and delicious. For obtaining the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Bandel Cheese, Dr. Debabrata Bera a professor from JNU is working in collaboration with Dr. Shovon Roy, senior scientific officer at the department of science and technology, Government of West Bengal. Dr. Bera feels their work can help improve the quality and commercial viability of the product. A GI tag will not just bring in recognition for its unique taste and history, but also exponentially increase its marketability. According to Dr. Bera “We started our research on the product a couple of years ago. Apart from its historical value, Bandel Cheese is very unique. He added, “Another problem is that we have detected the presence of bacteria like E. Coli and Staphylococcus in this variant. These microorganisms contaminate the cheese. So, we are working on this now.”

Geographical indications are valuable property to producers from particular geographical regions. They perform three functions: firstly, they identify goods as originating in a particular territory or region or locality in that territory; secondly, they suggest that the goods come from a particular area where a given quality reputation or other characteristics of goods is essentially attributable to their geographical origin; and thirdly they promote the goods of producers of the particular area.

This article has been written by Ayush Rastogi, The author is a reticent person. He is currently pursuing LLM from Amity Noida with a specialisation in Intellectual Property Law. The author is a bibliophile and a hodophile exploring places and local foods is a part of his hobby.

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