Made in the GMS: How GI Certification Can Boost Food Exports

Jars of coffŽee for sale in Ha Noi. Viet Nam has registered geographical indications for coffee and tea products, such as Buon Ma Thuot coffee, which is produced in the Central Highlands. Photo: brians101/

What do French Champagne, Italian Parmesan cheese, Japanese Kobe beef, and Indian Darjeeling Tea have in common? They are all protected by geographical indications, which distinguish them from other products and make them highly sought after by customers the world over.

In the Greater Mekong Subregion, countries have started to adopt laws and policies to protect locally sourced products that are made using traditional methods in their region of origin. There are now more than 300 registered geographical indications in the subregion, some of which are getting international recognition.

Registered Geographical Indications in the Greater Mekong Subregion

GMS Member Country

No. of Registered GIs



People's Republic of China (Guangxi and Yunnan)








Viet Nam




GI = geographical indication, GMS = Greater Mekong Subregion, Lao PDR = Lao People’s Democratic Republic, PRC = People’s Republic of China.
Notes: 1. Both the Lao PDR and Myanmar are in the process of approving GIs. 2. The number for the PRC (Guangxi and Yunnan) refers only to registered agro-products GIs under the PRC Ministry of Agriculture. Source: GMS Working Group on Agriculture.

High-value products

What is a geographical indication (GI)? The World Intellectual Property Organization defines it as “a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.” To register a GI, there should be a clear link between the product and its place of production.

In the world market, GIs are a trademark of quality and value. GIs enable local producers, who include smallholder farmers, to demand a premium price for their product. This results in higher and more sustainable incomes. For example, Kampot Pepper suppliers in Cambodia can command a premium of 300% at farm gate.

Supports sustainable farming

In the Greater Mekong Subregion, there is increasing interest in developing GI certification for various kinds of agricultural products. GI-certified products usually involve low volumes and environment-friendly production, which help in the “greening” of food production. There is also an increasing awareness of its benefits for rural development.

Regulations and mutual recognition of GIs in the subregion have yet to be harmonized. The GMS Program is supporting various initiatives related to GIs to ensure a wider and stronger coordination within the subregion. These include exchanging information and enhancing the subregional and global reputation of GIs from the GMS. The program is also using GIs to as part of its strategy to promote the subregion as a supplier of safe and environment-friendly agriculture products.

This article was adapted from the Agriculture Information Network Service of the GMS Working Group on Agriculture.

Last Updated: 30 October 2018