Agri Business

American chicken legs may soon be walking into Indian stores

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on January 17, 2018

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Govt eases import norms after US threatens WTO action

India has made changes in its rules for import of poultry to bring them in conformity with a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling after the US threatened to levy sanctions.

This may pave the way for import of American chicken legs, which could be offered to Indian consumers at prices that are much lower than rates for local poultry, spelling trouble for over four lakh local poultry farmers.

“It has to be seen now whether the US expresses satisfaction with the new notification and withdraws its request for WTO authorisation to retaliate against India,” a government official told BusinessLine. “If not, it could also drag the country to the compliance panel for making changes in the notification,”

Per India’s new notification, published by the Department of Animal Husbandry, avian influenza and the areas affected by it will henceforth be defined on the basis of the definitions provided in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The OIE is an international standard-setting body on animal health that is recognised by the WTO. Its definition of avian influenza is based on high-pathogen bacteria (highly infectious) and not low-pathogen as earlier defined by India.

Fineprint scrutiny

The US will examine whether the new notification gives its industry clear access to India’s market or if it needs to be defined better. “It if feels the notification needs to be refined, it could take the case to the compliance panel. New Delhi would then get a very short time to make changes or face action,” said a Delhi-based WTO expert.

Since the new notification does not specify what exactly the standards are, there is a possibility that the US could ask for clarity.

Domestic breeders, who produce an estimated 3.5 million tonnes of chicken every year, fear that cheap chicken legs from the US could eat up at least 40 per cent of their market share.

Earlier this month, the US had threatened to impose retaliatory economic sanctions against India if it did not abide by the WTO’s verdict.

Last year, the WTO had ruled against India’s ban on poultry imports, which aimed to protect the country from low pathogen avian influenza (bird flu), upholding a US claim that the restriction did not have any scientific justification. India was given time till mid-June this year to bring its import rules in line with international standards.

Published on July 15, 2016

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