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Laos Gears Up for GI Products

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Through the imminent signing of new geographical indication (GI) regulations Laos should be able to add products to this list in the near future.

Interest in GI has grown worldwide which can promote traditional production methods and certification of products associated with a region. In the last decade, over 150 GIs have been registered in Southeast Asia alone.

The information was revealed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative to Laos Dr Stephen Rudgard during the Regional Seminar on the Promotion of Geographical Indications, held on Wednesday in Vientiane.

In his opening speech, Dr Rudgard congratulated the Ministry of Science and Technology on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Lao and Cambodian governments for cooperation on Trademarks and GI as well as for hosting its first “GI week”.

“The organisation of this seminar, as well as the GI week in Laos, are both a great opportunity for participants to share common experiences and success stories on GI promotion – both at public and private levels – and to further disseminate GI awareness,” Dr Rudgard said.

GI was a name or mark used on certain products corresponding to a specific geographical location or origin, he explained. “A GI mark on a product certifies that it has certain authentic qualities, is produced using traditional methods, or has a reputation because of its geographical origin.”

Some examples of GI products many people may already know are: Champagne from France, Lamphun Brocade silk from Thailand, Kampot Pepper from Cambodia, Darjeeling Tea from India, Van Yen Cinnamon from Vietnam and Kobe Beef from Japan.

In order to receive a GI certification on a product, Dr Rudgard explained that farmers have to meet the specification standards on origin, production and control mechanisms of the product.

The GI legal protection aims to protect and empower smallholder producers as well as raise awareness among consumers on the quality and authenticity of products, particularly those that may not be as popularly known as others.

The GI initiative encourages producers and manufacturers to increase their production to meet the demands of more quality- conscious consumers, but all the while keeping the essence and traditional ways of production.

In addition, GI also promotes the socio-economic development of the region from which these products come.

“These GIs are important for local producers because GI helps small-scale producers sustain their unique identity as well as switch from quantitative to qualitative strategies in promoting their products in markets,” Dr Rudgard added .

Like in many developing countries, around 80 percent of the rural population in Laos is dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Therefore, promoting small-scale farmers through GI contributes to reducing poverty and hunger, according to FAO.

 

Source: Vientiane Times