Agri Business

American chicken legs set to walk into India

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on February 15, 2018


American chicken could finally gain entry into the Indian market

The final hurdle in the way of import of cheap chicken legs and other poultry items from the US into India may have finally been removed. The government has made changes in the health certification requirement for imported poultry items from the US in line with the suggestions made by the country and the stage is now set for imports.

“The Department for Animal Husbandry and Fisheries has resolved the health certification issue for poultry with the USFDA. The US poultry industry could start exporting to India soon. Hopefully, Washington will now consider the WTO dispute to be over,” a government official told BusinessLine.

Domestic industry to suffer

The latest changes made in the health certification requirement could now lead to the Indian poultry industry’s worst fear come true — that of facing the stiff challenge of competing with cheap chicken legs from the US.

According to industry estimates, the US could potentially take away 40 per cent of the market of domestic breeders, who produce 3.5 million tonnes of chicken annually.

WTO ruling

The US had challenged the stringent restrictions on imports of poultry that India had in place on poultry imports, ostensibly to check the spread of avian influenza or bird flu, at the WTO. In 2015, New Delhi lost the case and the WTO ruled that the import restrictions were unscientific and should be removed.

India then made two rounds of changes in its rules on health restrictions to comply to DSB’s ruling and take care of specific concerns raised by the US. The US, however, remained dissatisfied with the changes and sought damages.

“The US wanted that the health certification requirement should be modified to recognise the disease control system in the country and their systems approach so that their industry could export without fear of rejection by Indian authorities,” the official said.

Since minor modifications are done in health certifications to take care of country-specific requirement, the Animal Husbandry Department made the modifications sought by the USFDA.

Restriction on imports?

While the Commerce Ministry is concerned about the implications of the move on the domestic poultry industry, officials say that restrictions on imports, if any, have to be applied based strictly on OIE guidelines (globally accepted guidelines on health and sanitary requirements).

The government, together with the poultry industry, is examining issues such as the long-periods of deep-freezing of dressed chicken done in the US and the genetically modified feed given to the chicken to see if imports could be restricted on such genuine health concerns.

Published on February 15, 2018

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