Eggs Worth $560,000 Stranded at Indian Sea

INDIA - The Indian poultry industry is reeling under the impact of bird flu in West Bengal. Eggs worth over Rs.22 million ($560,000) that were being exported from the state to the Gulf countries are lying stranded in the sea, reports the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).
calendar icon 21 January 2008
clock icon 4 minute read
There are about 750 poultry farms in and around Namakkal, about 700 km from the state capital Chennai, where 30 million chickens are reared. These farms produce about 14 percent of the country's eggs - about 20 million. About six million of these are exported daily, mostly to countries in the Middle East and West Africa.

But as many as 22 containers of eggs that were shipped to Oman and Qatar from Namakkal this month have not been lifted yet as the two countries have abruptly banned the import of eggs from India following the outbreak of avian influenza in West Bengal.

'Our egg consignments to the Middle East are lying in the harbour. They are not lifting our huge stocks because they do not realise that Namakkal is far away from West Bengal. If the situation persists, it will be very bad for egg exports,' V.K. Sivakumar of VKS Exports told IANS.

As eggs have a shelf life of 90 days, the exporters are trying hard to divert the consignments to other buyers in western Africa to cut down on their losses.

In the wake of the bird flu outbreak two years ago, the Gulf countries had knocked Namakkal eggs off their dinner tables. Most Middle Eastern countries had resumed buying eggs from India after the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared India free of bird flu but the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had refused to lift the ban.

The poultry farmers then decided to explore new export markets and began to ship eggs to Kyrgyzstan, Albania, Afghanistan, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Angola. But a majority of the consumers of Indian eggs are still in the Middle Eastern countries.

The fresh outbreak of bird flu now has not only hit export amounts but also drastically brought down the prices of Indian eggs in the export market.

'From $19 per carton of 360 eggs, it has already come down to $16,' said Sivakumar whose company exports about four million eggs daily.

Poultry farmers say the exports may slump by 25 percent.

'Everytime there is an outbreak of bird flu in some part of the country, we get badly affected. But the hygiene conditions in our farms are excellent. Our birds have not been infected with flu anytime in the past three decades,' said Selvaraj, a veterinarian-turned-poultry farmer.

'Germicides have been sprayed in all poultry farms and we have increased the frequency of administering vaccines. No effort has been spared to ensure that our birds are free of flu and other infections,' said Selvaraj.

In an attempt to push the eggs in the local market, the poultry farmers have decided to slash egg prices from Rs.1.60 per egg to Rs.1.30. It is likely to go down to Rs.1 per egg, they say.

Meanwhile, Namakkal District Collector G. Sundaramurthy has set up quick-action veterinarian teams to look for any abnormality in the hens bred in the poultry farms.

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