In a major move that will bring cheer to the poultry industry, the Union government has allowed poultry breeders to import 1.5 million tonnes of de-oiled cake made of genetically modified soya.

With the soya prices soaring, crossing the ₹1 lakh (a tonne) mark, poultry breeders have written an SOS to the Government, asking for permission to import GM soyameal from the US, Brazil and Argentina.

The government wrote a reply to the All-India Poultry Breeders Association on Wednesday, allowing the sector to import the key feed ingredient to bail it out from the skyrocketing feed costs.

In a webinar organised by BusinessLine on the post-pandemic outlook for the poultry sector on Thursday, a senior industry representative acknowledged the receipt of the letter.

The rising prices of soyameal has put the poultry industry in a fix as it constitutes about 25 per cent of all the feed needs of a poultry farm. Feed costs constitute about 80 per cent of the total cost of production of a poultry farm, making it prohibitively expensive to produce broilers and eggs.

As the soya prices began to shoot up sharply, the All-India Poultry Breeders Association wrote to the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying early this month, seeking permission to import about 1.5 million tonnes of soya de-oiled cake/meal extracted from the GM soya seed.

The Ministry had referred it to the Union Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change and the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) for their ratification.

The Environment Ministry said that it didn’t have any objection (to import soya meal) since it didn’t contain any living modified organism. “The FSSAI said that anything which is non-food (not consumed by humans) is not under our purview,” a senior official of the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, said, quoting the letter. Suresh Chitturi, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Srinivasa Farms, said that the decision would bail out the industry as it would help cut down the costs by at least half.

Talks with EU

Meanwhile, the Centre was hoping to cut ice with the European Union regarding market access for the Indian poultry products to the region.

“We have launched the dialogue. But there has been disruption due to the pandemic. We hope to resume the discussions and get access to the EU,” Tarun Bajaj, Director of Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), said.

Taking part in the webinar, he said that the poultry exports had declined by 24 per cent to ₹435 crore during 2020-21 due to the adverse impact of the pandemic. “Early trends show that the decline has stopped,” he said.

Challenges ahead

He said the country had good opportunity to tap the export market. Stating that the country’s share in world’s imports was small, he said the industry needed to address challenges to make it ready for the opportunity.

“The GCC (Gulf cooperation council) has asked us for clarification on Newcastle disease. We are in touch with the States,” he said. “We need to focus on disease control,” he said.