The Indian poultry industry is strongly opposed to the government’s proposed move to sign the bilateral treaty with the United States (US) amid fears that cheap imports from the US after the treaty will lead to closure of lakhs of domestic chicken farms and processing units, thereby rendering about 4 million people jobless.
Sources said that talks between India and the US are in an advanced stage to sign the treaty, which would force India to cut import duty to 30 per cent from the existing 100 per cent on chicken imports from the US. In fact, the Union Ministry of Commerce has convened a meeting of secretaries to the departments of commerce, animal husbandry, agriculture, etc to take a final decision.
Industry sources say that poultry was added to the list at the eleventh hour during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US for Howdy Modi. US President Donald Trump is insisting India sign the treaty to get benefit in the next US presidential election scheduled for mid-2020. But, the Indian government has received strong opposition from the poultry industry. With lakhs of individual farmers considering poultry farming as an additional income source, cheap imports from the US would lead to closure of their units and hamper the rural economy.
“The proposals of treaty with the US, if signed, will allow import of chicken at a throw away price and therefore, prove a death knell for the Indian poultry industry. The price of chicken in the United States is ridiculously low. Hence, its import will finish the Indian poultry industry with closure of lakhs of Individual butcher houses, render at least 4 million people jobless, and hurt rural economy very badly. The government cannot kill millions of farmers just to satisfy the needs of one country,” said K G Anand, general manager, Venkateshwara Hatcheries, India’s leading producer of raw and processed chicken meat.
Interestingly, consumers in the US pay two and a half times the actual price of chicken to take breast meat (body of the bird). But, they avoid chicken legs which the US dumps in Third World countries, the European Union and China. Since all these markets have become surplus, the US wants to dump the chicken legs into India, mainly due to its large population size and the broad acceptance of chicken legs as a delicacy by Indian consumers.
“The US was dumping its chicken legs at a throwaway price in the European countries, including Russia, which was taken over by Brazil after the currency devaluation. So, the immediate need of the US is to find a marketplace and India fits the bill. Therefore, the government needs to understand the significance of the Indian poultry sector. The Indian poultry industry has grown over the years without any help from the government. Through the treaty, the government must not interfere in our activity,” said Raghav Rao, managing director, Kohinoor Hatcheries, a poultry farm based in Hyderabad.