Saudi Arabia is the second largest importer of poultry products from India and exporters fear other importing countries might follow suit.
Four weeks after the World Organisation for Animal Health reported an avian influenza outbreak, Saudi Arabia has temporarily banned imports of poultry products from India.
In a note dated January 2, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) informed Indian poultry exporters, “The ministry of environment, water and agriculture of Saudi Arabia has decided to impose a temporary ban on the import of live birds, hatching eggs and chicks from India due to the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.”
Such bans, however, are periodically reviewed and lifted in three months.
Saudi Arabia is the second largest importer of poultry products from India and exporters fear other importing countries might follow suit. But with exports contributing to less than 1 per cent of India’s poultry industry, the impact of Saudi Arabia’s ban may not be significant.
“India’s exports of hatching eggs and eggs will be stopped if India is declared as a bird flu positive country. Low pathogenic avian influenza is present in our country, which flares up sometimes,” said Balram Yadav, managing director, Godrej Agrovet.
Data compiled by Apeda showed a steady increase in India’s exports of poultry products from $92.53 million in 2013 -14 to $117.40 million in 2015-16. Exports of poultry products to Saudi Arabia have also moved up from $7.94 million in 2013-14 to $14.63 million in 2015-16. Saudi Arabia contributes around 15 per cent of India’s exports of poultry products after Oman with a share of over 26 per cent.
According to experts, bird flu is carried by wild and migratory birds. India being a large country, with a $15 billion poultry industry, does not permit vaccination to prevent bird flu outbreaks. Many countries, including Bangladesh, have allowed vaccination to prevent outbreaks. In India, keeping track of small poultry farms in remote areas is difficult.
“India’s chicks exports to Saudi Arabia are costly compared to those from Brazil and America. Input cost, including corn and other bird feed, is cheaper in Brazil and America. So the temporary ban is unlikely to affect the poultry sector in India,” said Ramesh Khatri, President, Poultry Federation of India.
Khatri urged the government to declare bird flu-free zones. “This will help shipment of poultry products from the regions declared safe and prevent exports from sensitive zones,” he added.
Starting in Tripura early in 2016, the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak was reported in many parts of the country throughout the year. But no major outbreaks and culling of birds were reported.