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Bird flu spells boom for poultry units

February 05, 2004 11:48 IST

Bird flu in far-eastern countries and neighbouring Pakistan is turning out to be great news for the Indian poultry industry.

With Thailand, Vietnam and China no longer feeding the markets of Europe and the United States, Indian suppliers have been inundated with inquiries from all over the world.

Thus, the Venkateshwara Hatcheries group, the country's player in the business, has inquiries pouring in from Japan, Indonesia, United States and other countries.

"There is a single inquiry from Russia for 400 containers (of 20 tonne each)," the group's chairman, Anuradha Desai, told Business Standard.

Desai claims that she has also been approached by KFC to supply chicken to its various markets outside India. So long, the Venkateshwara Hatcheries group has been supplying chicken to KFC in India only.

As a result, India's poultry exports are expected to increase significantly in the coming months, though the industry is not prepared to say by how much.

So far, India has been doing poultry exports of around Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion) annually, with eggs and egg powder accounting for a sizeable chunk. This year, the share of chicken in total exports is expected to rise sharply.

At the moment, Indian exports could be constrained by a shortage of processing capacity. As a result, companies have started drawing up plans to ramp up their processing capacities.

Desai said that she plans to raise her capacity from the existing 20,000 chickens per day to 60,000 per day, with the additional capacity catering exclusively to the export markets.

Thanks to increased exports, the industry hopes to grow by at least 25 per cent this year, as against an annual growth of 15 per cent in the past.

Commenting on the absence of the dreaded disease in India, industry sources pointed out that the Indian poultry industry is better organised and the Indian farmer better aware of scientific methods of farmer than their counterparts in Far East and Pakistan. As a result, bird flu has not been traced to India.

"The Indian poultry industry is one of the most technologically advanced, comparable to the best in the world. The production infrastructure in India is most modern with disease surveillance/diagnostic facilities and health monitoring facilities being one of the most highly sophisticated and unique in the world," the sources added.

Companies have also spent resources to track migratory birds coming from Pakistan for traces of the disease.

The Rs 29,000-crore (Rs 290 billion) poultry industry in India contributes about 4 per cent to the GDP and growing at the rate of 8-10 per cent. About 3.5 million people including traders, transporters and farmers are dependent on the industry.

BS Corporate Bureau in New Delhi