Rising competition pushes SL to obtain GI for Ceylon Cinnamon | Sunday Observer

Rising competition pushes SL to obtain GI for Ceylon Cinnamon

Christopher Fernando
Christopher Fernando

Sri Lanka is taking measures to obtain the Geographical Indication (GI) for Ceylon Cinnamon and working to achieve the desired results in the near future, Secretary, Ceylon Cinnamon Geographical Indication Association, Christopher Fernando said.

“With all the efforts in place, Ceylon Cinnamon would be Sri Lanka’s first-ever GI,” he said at an interview with Business Observer.

Excerpts:

A new study has found that food products linked to their place of origin are economically and socially beneficial to rural areas and promote sustainable development.

In response to a longstanding cry by the spices and allied product producers, traders and exporters, action is being taken with regard to Geographical Indication (GI) application for Ceylon Cinnamon.

This move comes as a result of rising competition from other cinnamon sources in the world market. However, Ceylon Cinnamon is facing competition from substitutes such as Cassia, and other varieties of cinnamon supplied by Madagascar and the Seychelles.

A GI is a sign identifying a good, as originating in a specific geographical area and possessing a given quality, reputation or other characteristic that is essentially attributable to that geographical origin.

Thus, the main function of a GI is to indicate a connection between that quality, characteristics or reputation of the good and its territory of origin.

Examples - Darjeeling Tea which originates in Darjeeling India; Cuban cigars which are made from tobacco leaves grown in Cuba. Champagne which is produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France; and Tequila which is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave.

As all are aware, Sri Lanka is the leading exporter of true cinnamon to the world and holds almost 90% of the global pure cinnamon market.

Today, the cinnamon plantations are concentrated along the coastal belt stretching along from Kalutara to Matara, but cultivation of cinnamon has made inroads to the areas of Galle, Ambalangoda and Ratnapura.

The Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) works with the cinnamon Industry stakeholders to obtain Geographical Indication (GI) for ‘Ceylon cinnamon’ in the European Union (EU) covering five districts namely Galle, Matara, Kaluthara, Rathnapura and Hambanthota.

Groundwork for registering GI

* UNIDO and Export Development Board are assisting the cinnamon industry in registering Geographical Indication (GI) for Ceylon cinnamon with the European Commission; Ceylon cinnamon would be Sri Lanka’s first-ever GI.

* UNIDO plays a major role in supporting EDB and the cinnamon Industry towards the legal framework for GI registration, all the supporting documents for the application to the EC, organisation of value chain actors through, and promotion of Ceylon Cinnamon GI.

Ceylon Cinnamon GI Association

It is important to group producers and other stakeholders of a GI within an organisation

* UNIDO, along with the EDB, led the industry in laying the groundwork for the formation of the Ceylon Cinnamon Geographical Indication Association (CCGIA) to organise all value chain actors in order to promote CCGIA and to harmonise the practices of value chain actors under a common framework.

Thus far, four awareness workshops have been carried out across the island for SMEs and institutional stakeholders and three more are planned for this year.

Those involved in the cinnamon supply chain need to be registered and obtain membership of the CCGIA to export Ceylon Cinnamon to the EU region under the ‘Ceylon Cinnamon’ name.

The responsibility: The responsibility of the CCGIA is to implement an internal control mechanism to monitor its members meeting the specifications stated in the GI specification document. In this regard, the cooperation and active participation of the cinnamon industry stakeholders including growers, manufacturers, traders, and exporters will be obtained by the CCGIA.

Membership: The product specifications included in the GI document need to be implemented and practiced throughout the supply chain by growers, processors, traders, and exporters to become eligible to obtain the membership of the Ceylon Cinnamon Geographic Indication Association (CCGIA), which has been established to hold the ownership of Ceylon Cinnamon GI. The association will represent all the stakeholders in the cinnamon industry in Sri Lanka.

Legal framework:

* To set up the groundwork for the registration of GI, UNIDO supported the National Intellectual Property Office (NIPO) in Sri Lanka to amend the IP Act to register GI in Sri Lanka.

* Supporting documents and actions for the GI application include (product) certification, internal and external control plan, and blueprint for the traceability system; these would collectively facilitate compliance at each stage of the value chain.

* The Specifications and Control Plan are major components of the Ceylon Cinnamon GI application to the EC. Foremost experts with extensive experience in the SAARC region have given nuanced advisory support to the relevant institutions, such as EDB, NIPO, and Department of Export Agriculture (DEA) and industry stakeholders.

Registration: Ceylon cinnamon will be the first-ever GI product in Sri Lanka. Ceylon cinnamon is a symbol of Sri Lankan quality and Ceylon Cinnamon GI will have paved the way for future GI products, such as Ceylon Tea and Blue Sapphire. We do hope we can build on the momentum of Ceylon Cinnamon GI with the support of the Government and private sector stakeholders such as the DEA, Spice Council, and the Spices and Allied Products Producers and Traders Association.

As a part of this initiative, the Department of Export Agriculture is working to implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for cinnamon growers and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for cinnamon processors.

Supportive policies

Development of traditional GI products should be empowering through capacity building and the involvement of local people in all steps of decision making from production to marketing; The development of traditional products should be a multi-stakeholder effort, but the government needs to facilitate and support existing initiatives through the allocation of budgets.

The potentials of marketing and promoting traditional products in the European Market region were not fully tapped. Currently, the most important market links for traditional products are with the tourism sector.

Much more capacity building is needed in order to enable local products of traditional products to comply with the GI procedures and more importantly to market their products. The private sector can play an important role in promoting traditional knowledge but the interests of local people must be assured throughout the value chain and allow all eligible stakeholders to benefit from GIs.

Government support: Government to consider taking the following actions in order to develop the enabling environment that will support sustainable GIs:

* Identify potential products and stakeholders or inter-professional bodies ready to cooperate;

* Lead activities to raise consumer awareness through the media.

* Launch pilot projects to develop newly registered GIs, in particular those products meant for export and provide temporary support, such as investment;

* Include economic and rural development potential as assessment criteria for the registration of new GIs;

* Include GIs in a national strategy for tourism and export promotion of the country’s products.

Plantation crop: Due to its relatively low land coverage compared with other domestic plantation crops, cinnamon in Sri Lanka is classified as a minor export with an area of around 30,545 ha under cultivation.

The quality and specific attributes of food linked to origin, its diversity and local access are all matters that affect sustainable food systems and healthy diets.

In various parts of the world, generations have built up their local identity through typical food products and a specific landscape that reflects the interactions between natural resources and production systems.

Today, the links between products, places and inhabitants do not only represent a heritage to be preserved – partly thanks to GIs – but they also have a market value in their own right, as consumers become increasingly interested in quality linked to geographical origin.

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