Commodities

Poultry industry face uncertainty as the imports policy on GM soymeal turns murkier

G. CHANDRASHEKHAR | Updated on August 22, 2021

There's a tug-of-war between industry's domestic economic compulsions and non-science based dogmatic and regressive elements, laments a poultry breeder

The import policy relating to GM (genetically modified) soybean meal or extraction – a key feed ingredient for the country’s large and growing poultry industry – is turning murkier and quirkier. There is no definite clarity yet whether the import of GM soymeal is allowed or whether the Customs authorities will clear the import consignment.

In the latest development, the Ministry of Finance, Department of Revenue, has issued an Office Memorandum August 17, 2021, referring to the communication dated 10-08-2021 from the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.

Quoting Para 6 of the General Notes regarding import policy in schedule 1 of Import Policy (ITC (HS) 2017 issued by DGFT), the communication states that the said Para 6 applies to ‘Genetically modified food, feed, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and Living Modified Organisms (LMOs)’.

As per extant policy, deoiled soya meal (genetically modified) used for manufacturing animal feed shall require prior approval from the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee), Finance Ministry communication has asserted, adding that the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs is only tasked with the mandate of enforcing the provisions of export and import policies as framed by DGFT, and that the matter may be referred to DGFT for necessary action.

It is clear the matter is going all over the government and is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. It seems some enterprising importers have already contracted for quantities for import. It may take between 30 and 40 days for the vessel to arrive at the Indian port. They are possibly hoping to favourably resolve the tangle in the meantime; but are taking a big risk.

Unfortunately, the poultry breeders face huge uncertainty. On the one hand, the domestic feed rates are relatively high, and on the other, uncertainty over import policy. Come September, soybean crop harvest may start by mid-month, providing some relief to the beleaguered poultry industry.

"There seems to be a tug-of-war between domestic economic compulsions of the industry and non-science based dogmatic and regressive elements. Let’s see who wins", lamented a poultry breeder incurring production disruption and financial losses.

(The author is a policy commentator and agribusiness specialist. Views are personal)

Published on August 22, 2021

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