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GI status for ant chutney: A mouthwateringly appetising prospect?

Mayurbhanj district in the state of Odisha in eastern India is well known for its ‘kai (red weaver ant) chutney’ and may, soon, attain the much-awaited geographical indication (‘GI’) status. The ants are abundantly available in Mayurbhanj district and has been consumed in the form of a chutney or soup, by mixing them with spicy ingredients.

The indigenous Mayurbhanj tribes have been utilising kai to make chutney since time immemorial. Furthermore, the tribes also use this species of kai as medicine to treat various medical conditions. The preparation of kai chutney is rather interesting – ants and their eggs are collected from the nests early in the morning when the ants are sluggish. The chutney is then prepared by mixing and grinding salt, ginger, garlic and Dhanua chilies. The chutney has a characteristic pungent spiciness and is sour yet is generally considered appetising! Kais are rich in valuable proteins, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, copper, fiber and 18 amino acids, and are known to boost the immune system.

A ‘geographical indication’ is an indication which identifies such goods as originating from a particular territory where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. The Odisha University of Agriculture & Technology (the ‘applicant’) filed a GI application with the Indian GI Registry in 2020. As per local practice, the Registry constituted a ‘Consultative Group of Experts’ to review the application.

Pursuant thereto, and based on the recommendations of the said group, the Registry issued an Examination Report in which several objections were raised. The applicant has filed a response. It is now down to the Registry’s court to consider the response, and to issue further directions in due course.

GI protection will certainly be a shot in the arm for the Mayurbhanj Kai Society, which oversees the production, distribution, and sale of kai chutney. The society plans to increase the chutney’s popularity throughout India and eventually around the world.

By: Ian Mirandah

A version of this article was first published in the membership journal of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys – see more at http://www.cipa.org.uk/.