Indian Eggs Threaten Bangladesh Poultry

BANGLADESH - Egg imports from India could destroy Bangladesh's entire poultry industry, the industry has warned.
calendar icon 23 April 2012
clock icon 5 minute read

According to The Daily Star, in November 2011, the commerce ministry allowed Dhaka-based Faria Enterprise Ltd to import one crore pieces of hatching eggs from India.

In October 2010, the ministry allowed the same company to import one billion pieces of day-old chicks from India and other countries. The firm was told to complete the import by June last year. The minister later extended the deadline to 30 June this year.

The entry of eggs from the neighbouring country has created worries among experts, who said such imports from a country not free from bird flu widen the risk of spread of avian influenza locally.

"Being a bird flu affected country we cannot export our poultry products. On the other hand, we are importing poultry products from another bird flu-affected country," said Moshiur Rahman, convener of Bangladesh Poultry Industries Coordination Committee.

He said the livestock ministry is the main authority to deal with the poultry sector, which has directly employed around 70 million people, mostly in rural areas, and another 30 million people indirectly.

"We understand that the commerce ministry gives permission for imports, but it should have discussed with the livestock ministry on the issue," he told The Daily Star.

He alleged that apart from the official channel, hundreds of thousands of eggs are smuggled into Bangladesh.

Industry people said there is no way to know whether the eggs would be used for sale or hatching.

India is now frantically looking for markets for its eggs and other poultry products, after the Middle Eastern countries shut their door for the Indian eggs due to the outbreak of bird flu in the country, with the latest ban coming from Oman.

The oil-rich country, which accounts for one-third of Indian poultry products, banned the import of eggs from India on 27 March.

Indian exporters have now turned their focus towards markets such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and West African countries.

The industry people said the poultry products entering Bangladesh from India both legally and illegally would come from India's border areas connected with Bangladesh. These areas are highly at risk of bird flu.

Reports of repeated resurgence of pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in Tripura have already prompted the Food and Agriculture Organisation to send a five-member specialist team to the state on April 18 to investigate the matter, according to the Times of India.

India notified the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) of a bird flu outbreak on 6 February, according to the OIE website.

The commerce ministry has said, it has to be certified that the imported grand parent stock or parent stock has not been given influenza vaccine, according to the industry people.

But Indian farmers are giving vaccines to the chicks officially and unofficially. Ihtesham Shahjahan, general secretary of Feed Mill Association of Bangladesh, said Indian farms also use harmful antibiotic in the chicks.

He said the government allowed Faria Enterprise to import eggs last year, but the eggs were not imported because there was overproduction in the country.

Mr Rahman said they are not against egg import, but the poultry products should come from countries free from avian influenza for the sake of human health.

Bangladesh, which was self sufficient in poultry products even in 2011, needs to import eggs as the local supply is half of the daily demand for 3.5 billion eggs, due to a drastic fall in production amid the outbreak of avian influenza.

MM Khan, secretary general of Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association, said there are laws to stop imports of eggs from an avian influenza affected country, but the rules are not being followed.

The industry people also expressed concern about the foreign companies' foray into the country's poultry industry. No official of Faria Enterprise was immediately available for comments.

Faria Enterprise is not the only company that has been given permission to import eggs.

Rajdhani International, a trader, imported some 77 lakh pieces of Indian eggs through Benapole land port in the last one month, a customs official said earlier.

The company received the green light from the commerce ministry in August 2009 to import 10 crore pieces of eggs. It has so far imported more than two crore pieces.

According to Import Policy Order 2009-12, an importer requires permission from the commerce ministry. And "eggs are importable in limited quantity from a country free from avian influenza or bird flu," says the order.

It also says, for every consignment of imported eggs, there must be a certificate mentioning the goods are free from avian influenza or bird flu virus and harmful bacteria, issued from the livestock department or any competent authority of the exporting country.

Commerce Secretary Ghulam Hussain recently said the government would not allow egg import from a bird flu or avian influenza prone country.

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