Call for Compartmentalisation as Exports Plummet

INDIA - Egg exports have slumped following the four avian flu outbreaks since 2006. The Poultry Federation of India is calling for the introduction of zoning (compartmentalisation) of the country to protect the industry in unaffected areas in case of future disease outbreaks.
calendar icon 20 February 2009
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India's egg exports dropped over 70 per cent year-on-year to 6 billion eggs in 2008, as demand for the country's poultry products fell sharply due to successive bird flu outbreaks, trade officials told Business Standard.

"Our [poultry] sector has incurred huge loss because egg exports had come to a halt following outbreak of bird flu in eastern and northeastern India," Brij Mohan, senior manager, Venkateshwara Hatcheries said. Although most importing countries from the region have since started buying Indian eggs, the quantity is down to almost a quarter of the earlier trade.

Mr Mohan said West Asian countries had stopped buying eggs from India after the country first reported bird flu in 2006 in Maharashtra. The second outbreak was reported in 2007 in Manipur, the third one in West Bengal and Assam in late 2008, while the disease broke out for the fourth time in Sikkim last month. "Earlier we used to export 30 containers [1 container = 500,000 eggs) of eggs per day. Currently we export only 8-10 containers," Mr Mohan said.

However, Rick Thaper, treasurer, Poultry Federation of India said the Indian poultry sector has incurred loss mainly because the country is under a single poultry zone. "Zoning is a must to keep poultry sector booming," Mr Thaper said. Unlike China, India's poultry sector is not divided into zones, therefore if any part of India is hit by bird flu, the entire country's exports are affected.

Although bird flu was reported in eastern and northeastern India, exports from southern India too came to a standstill, as the entire country is in a single zone. About 90 per cent of India's total egg exports are from southern states. "The Indian government has not been very practical in handling the bird flu situation. India has huge potential for exports, so government should give proper direction to the poultry sector," he said.

In 2008, India exported six billion eggs but exports could have been much better if importing countries had not banned purchase of poultry products from India, said a spokesperson for a major poultry farm.

Business Standard reports that India is the fourth largest egg producer in the world producing 48 billion eggs annually. India has huge potential for egg exports, as compared with United States, one of the major exporters. The European Union, USA and Brazil are the biggest exporters of eggs in the world.

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