A tag is not enough

The granting of the geographical indication tag for Banglar rosogolla has brought cheer to Bengal. While it may be true that Bengal is the origin of Banglar rosogolla and that the state may also be producing the best rosogollas in the world, will this recognition bring any substantial benefits for the rosogolla and its makers? A GI registration implies that sweet-makers from other states will not be able to make or sell Banglar rosogolla. However, there is no restriction on producers/sellers of sweets in other states on making and selling rosogolla as long as they do not call it Banglar rosogolla.

Surely, this will not have any bearing on sweet-makers in Odisha. If Odisha can prove that its own rosogolla is unique and that it originated in the state, it can also get a GI tag for the sweetmeat. Rosogolla is now sold almost everywhere in India. Rosogollas available in some shops in Delhi that are run by Bengalis are, in fact, better than those sold in modest sweet shops in Bengal. But even these shops do not claim to sell Banglar rosogolla. It must be noted that GI recognition can only prevent the use of protected marks or indications; it does not protect the knowledge, or the technologies embracing that knowledge as such.

However, it would be useful to look at the 300-odd products that have already been granted GI protection. The case of Darjeeling tea is an exception because the Centre got its GI registered in several countries, a step that may have benefited tea growers in Darjeeling. But such benefits seem to have eluded other products that have received the GI tag. Even in the case of the Banarasi sari, which also commands a huge reputation, not many genuine weavers have come forward to register as authentic producers although the GI tag was granted way back in 2009. This holds true for some other products that have also received the GI registration.

Darjeeling tea has a global reputation because it cannot be grown anywhere else. Consumers are thus willing to pay a premium for this product over other varieties of tea. But unlike Darjeeling tea, one cannot claim that the rosogolla produced in Bengal is intrinsically unique and that a similar product cannot be produced elsewhere. Hence, it is not clear whether consumers will be willing to pay a premium price for Banglar rosogolla. Incidentally, consumers usually prefer to buy rosogolla that has been freshly prepared rather than the ones that are packed or tinned for sale. This will also make it difficult for Banglar rosogolla to attract the attention of consumers from other states.

How many sweet-makers from Bengal will come forward to register themselves as authentic producers of Banglar rosogolla? This is difficult to tell. Most producers cater to consumers based on their local reputation. They may find it difficult to strictly adhere to the specifications that are required by the GI registration. Small manufacturers would be averse to following such specifications; even reputed sweet-makers have their own formulae. They may not want to change things just for the GI tag.

Rosogolla is widely sold and consumed. The Bengal government would need to make enormous efforts to create a brand image for Banglar rosogolla so that the latter can gain a formidable reputation. Bringing a large number of producers to the initiative and maintaining the standards of quality would be some of the other challenges that Banglar rosogolla has to meet in order to benefit from its GI status.