The opposition to the External Affairs Ministry’s proposal to allow duty-free import of chicken legs from the US is gathering momentum with more poultry farmers protesting the move. Duty-free import of American chicken legs will wreak havoc on the domestic poultry industry, besides raising health concerns, they contend.
The Ministry has made the proposal 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.
Several poultry farmers’ associations from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, leading poultry products producers in the country, have said that chicken legs in the US were “by-products”.
In the US, consumers only prefer chicken breast meat, considered a lean, white meat, sold at a premium.
“Chicken legs are discarded and sold at throwaway prices. Most of these are stored for months and years. And now they (US) are planning to dump this in the Indian market without restrictions or customs duty,” said G Ranjit Reddy, President, Poultry Breeders Association.
He said that in the US while the 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. “Let the (Indian) Government allow import of full chicken from US on a level-playing field and we will compete. We are the cheapest producers of poultry products,” he said.
Such free import of chicken legs from the US had severely bruised the poultry industries in Sri Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam, Mexico and Russia, following which these countries have banned such imports, the farmers said.
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 associations have also expressed concern over reports by Centre for Science and Environment that traces of some antibiotic were found in chicken meat samples in Delhi.
Reddy said the Indian poultry industry believed in vaccination rather than antibiotic treatment of chicken. “We use antibiotic as a last resort. The samples contained traces of antibiotic much below the permissible limits,” he said.
Source: The Hindu Business Line