India Illprepared To Take Advantage Of South East Asian Bird Flu

Mumbai, Jan 28 | Updated: Jan 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
Even as it is said to be insulated from the dreaded bird flu virus, Indias Rs 6,000 crore poultry industry is illprepared to take any advantage of the Avian Influenza virus that has hit some 10 Asian nations, industry sources said. This is because of its vast domestic market and almost negligible presence of vital post-harvest facilities like the processing industry and certified export houses among others.

Over the past week, bird flu virus has hit countries like Pakistan, China, Thailand, Korea and other countries. Thousands of infected birds have been slaughtered in these countries and leading food chains have begun replacing chicken varieties with fish varieties.

Till now India is said to be unaffected by this virus. However, the government has alerted officials of the state agriculture ministries and their animal husbandry departments.

The bird flu in SE Asian region has thus created a huge demand-supply gap. With around 1.5 bn birds produced annually, India is considered to be the fourth largest producer of poultry products after China, USA and Russia. Will it be able to take advantage of this opportunity Unlikely, say industry sources and observers.

According to the Compound Live Stock Feed Manufacturers Association of India chairman AR Subbarao: We dont see India being able to take any advantage of the opportunities in the SE Asian poultry market and we cant do anything in this regard. May be this could be an opportunity for the government to look at the various levies that has hindered the growth of the industry and prevented it from becoming competitive in the global market.

Mr Subbarao is also vice president of Godrej Agrovet.

Accorrding to Mr Subbarao, India is dominantly a market for live birds and not processed birds and poultry products. Majority of the 1.2 bn birds that Indian poultry farms produce each year are consumed locally and therefore very little is left for processing industry and exports.

Further, given the composition of the domestic market and the levies of excise and other levies, the poultry processing industry has not developed to the extent it should have. Moreover, the because of the tax and other levies, the Indian poultry prices have always been higher than the global prices. TThe break-even for export of Indian poultry products is said to be $1,200 per tn.