Poultry farmers in foul mood over import of chicken legs

Filed on August 15, 2014

The Indian poultry industry has expressed concern over the federal government’s recent proposal to allow duty-free import of chicken legs from the United States.

The move has particularly ruffled the feathers among poultry farmers in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh who contend that the move would play havoc with the domestic poultry industry.

The External Affairs Ministry proposal is a quid pro quo arrangement in return for access to Indian Basmati rice and fruits in the American market and immigration reforms designed to help IT professionals in the US. The US government has been pressing for removal of heavy anti-dumping duties on chicken legs in India.

President of Andhra Pradesh Federation of Poultry Farmers D Sudhakar, coming down on the Centre’s move, said: “India is the cheapest chicken and egg producer in the world and it contributes significantly to the country’s GDP. In the US, chicken legs and wings are by-products. Importing chicken legs will destroy the domestic poultry industry.”

Incidentally, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are leading producers of poultry products, accounting for nearly one-third of the country’s produce.

The two states put together produce over 70 million eggs per day and over 30.5 million broiler birds each month. The proposal would adversely impact 500,000 poultry farmers in the country, experts contended.

Chicken legs in the US are seen as by-products as many American consumers prefer chicken breast meat, considered as lean, white meat, and sold at a premium. “Chicken legs are discarded and sold at throwaway prices. Most of these are stored for months and years. And now, the US is planning to dump this in the Indian market without

restrictions or customs duty,” said G Ranjit Reddy, President, Poultry Breeders Association.

In the US, a whole chicken is sold at $4 a kg, breast meat is sold at a premium of $7.9, while chicken legs are sold at $3.4 in the retail market. “If Indian Government allows import of full chicken from US on a level-playing field, then we can compete well. We are the cheapest producers of poultry products,” he said.

The free import of chicken legs from the US had severely damaged poultry industries in Sri Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico and Russia, following which these countries have now banned such imports, the poultry farmers pointed out.

India is currently the second-largest egg producer with an annual production of 65,000 million eggs and third-largest broiler producer with 3.8 million tonnes of poultry meat produced annually.

The poultry industry associations of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, meanwhile, have debunked the report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) that traces of some antibiotics were found in chicken meat samples in Delhi.

“This report appears to have been influenced by multinational companies who are trying to export chicken legs from the US to India,” alleged Ranjit Reddy, president of Telangana Poultry Federation.

The amounts of antibiotics residues found in chicken produced in the country were less than the permissible levels announced by European Union, he claimed.

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