Presidential attention over US-India poultry trade

by By Bryan Salvage
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NEW DELHI, India – On Jan. 26, which also happens to be the deadline for India to appeal against a ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that forced India to open its door to poultry imports from the United States, President Obama plans to be in New Delhi as a guest of honor during India’s Republic Day celebrations, The Dollar Business reports.

Although a top exporter of poultry products, the US has exported negligible quantities to India in more recent years, a country that is reportedly largely self-sufficient in poultry and poultry products. But increasing US poultry supplies coupled with a projected increase in poultry product consumption in India due to the demographic and economic factors has whetted the appetites of US poultry exporters in recent years, insiders claim.

This poultry import dispute has been ongoing. On March 6, 2012, the US requested meetings with India over the 2007 ban on poultry imports from the US because of concerns related to avian influenza. As a result, the WTO put together a panel to investigate the matter. Ultimately, WTO asked India to lift the ban in a ruling dated Nov. 6, 2014.

US industry representatives have charged there were more bird flu cases in India than in US in recent years and that India’s ban was “thinly veiled protectionism.” India, however has requested to have until Jan. 26 to appeal against the WTO ruling. Apart from the threat to the domestic poultry industry in India and the persistent danger of an avian Influenza outbreak, there are growing concerns over the possibility of transferring antibiotic resistance from animal food to human beings.

Last month, the Indian Parliament was told by Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Minister of State for Agriculture, informed the Parliament that the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries that his department has asked all states and union territories of India for judicious use of antibiotics in treatment of food producing animals and to stop using antibiotics in animal feed.

In December, Balyan also revealed that some samples of chicken have allegedly tested positive for antibiotic content in recent lab tests. India’s government has made it mandatory for antibiotic medicines to carry a label on the withdrawal period and banned use of animal products before the withdrawal period of the drug is over.

These changes may make imports of poultry to India difficult and are also reportedly similar to concerns in the US. The US Food and Drug Administration previously announced a deadline of 2016 for the phasing out the use of medically important antimicrobials in food animals. In addition, there are also concerns in India over genetically modified-fed poultry products imports from US.
Meanwhile, the US poultry industry renounces such fears as being unfounded and that it hopes to see a breakthrough.
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