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Despite WTO backing, US poultry exports unlikely to make it to India soon

American chicken legs may not make it to your dinner plates in the future, regardless of a World Trade Organization order .

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 31, 2014, 05.14 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: American chicken legs may not make it to your dinner plates in the future, regardless of a World Trade Organization order that asks New Delhi to remove curbs on poultry imports from the US. US poultry exporters say India’s inadequate facilities to store and distribute frozen meat, and the likelihood of the country challenging the WTO ruling, would delay shipments to India.

Fearing loss of business, local poultry players have been pressing the government to take steps to ensure that the US doesn’t dump chicken legs — an item that they say Americans usually discard — in the Indian market. India could possibly appeal against the recent WTO order, said a person with knowledge of the government’s plans.

"India has a lot of reasons to challenge this," he said, adding that the WTO ruling would lead to dumping of frozen chicken legs which has no market in the US. Currently, foreign suppliers have no direct access to the Indian poultry market. Global poultry majors like Pilgrim’s of the US, Brazil’s Perdigao and Charoen Pokphand Foods from Thailand are keen to enter the Indian market, industry executives said.

India is the fourth largest producer of chicken meat in the world after the US, China and Brazil, with production touching 3.5-4.0 million tonnes a year. Organised players like Godrej Tyson, Suguna Foods, Venkateshwara Hatcheries and Alchemist have been expanding their retail base, apart from augmenting capacities. Per-capita consumption of chicken in India has been on the rise, with eating habits changing predominantly in the metro cities, driving demand for fresh meat and meat products.

"Quick-service restaurants tell us that they are unable to get supply of wholesome quality product meeting food-safety requirement," said James H Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

"This is not enabling them to expand their operations the way they would like to," he told ET over the phone from the US. "Indian companies have for long had a strong connection with American players and we expect the bond to further strengthen," said Sumner. US-based Tyson Foods in 2006 entered the Indian market through a joint venture with Godrej. In the 1980s, US poultry breeding company Cobb had a joint venture with Venkateshwara Hatcheries.

Also, the Aviagen Group, the world's premier poultry breeder, had set up an integrated backend processing plant in Coimbatore. Sumner cited India’s limited cold-storage facilities as a major challenge and health hazard.

"During my visits to India, I saw raw chicken being transported without refrigeration and in the open air, which is a tremendous food safety concern," he said.

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