The Indian poultry industry is expecting to reap a windfall thanks to the bird flu epidemic that is devastating poultry flocks in much of Asia. Indian breeders hope to take the place of exporters from countries where the epidemic is raging. The Indian poultry industry sees big export opportunities emerging from the bird flu that has ravaged poultry stocks in parts of Asia.
"We have been inundated with export enquiries in last 10 to 15 days," said B.S. Yadav, general manager at Godrej Agrovet, one of India's leading poultry products manufacturers. "Almost all the West Asian countries as well as Japan have sent inquiries for possible import from India."
Those countries traditionally import chicken from Thailand and Vietnam. But those two countries have been hard hit by the avian flu epidemic, and governments across Asia have banned the import of poultry products from infected countries.
India's health ministry says there is no bird flu in India. In an attempt to keep the virus out, the government has imposed a six-month ban on the import of all poultry products.
The $165 million Indian poultry industry has an annual production of approximately 1.5 million tons. At present, the country exports only a small quantity of processed chicken, about 25,000 tons a year. But according to Mr. Yadav, the demand from West Asia and Japan has opened new opportunities.
"At one time the country never thought of [the] possibility of export," he said. "[But] lots of companies will be able to make some headway in exports in next three to six weeks. … If we build the bridges once, I am sure we will be able to find some way of continuing them in future."
A government-run company, Meat Products of India, adds that the demand for Indian poultry is likely to remain high, because it will take suppliers in countries like Thailand some time to recover from the mass killings of their chicken flocks.
The processed food industry is in its infancy in India. The industry complains that it has been given few incentives, strict standards have not been imposed and taxes remain high.
The poultry industry is now calling for more investment in processing plants and the lowering of taxes, saying it wants to translate the "short-term opportunity" provided by the bird flu epidemic into long-term gains.
All this depends, of course, on India remaining free of the disease. If not, it will be in the same boat as its neighbors, and the search for chicken will be directed elsewhere.