NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Infrastructure bottlenecks and intermittent bird flu outbreaks are hampering Indian poultry exports, by negating a significant advantage from steady feedstock supplies, a top industry official said on Wednesday.
India’s domestic poultry market, estimated at about $7.7 billion, is booming. The country, which is the world third-biggest supplier of eggs, however is struggling to expand its international market share currently pegged only at about $110 million annually.
India’s main advantage is adequate supplies of feeds like corn and soymeal which are not genetically modified, lending the world’s sixth-largest broiler producer a distinct cost advantage.
But intermittent outbreaks of bird flu in pockets of India since 2006 have hampered exports. Storage and processing problems have only made things worse and the industry is calling for opening the food retail sector to wider investment, including foreign, to help address these issues.
“Import bans (by other countries) due to bird flu does not allow us to derive cost advantage benefits from ample supplies of feedstocks,” Jagbir Singh Dhull, president of the Poultry Federation of India (PFI) told the Reuters Global Food and Agriculture Summit.
“Allowing foreign funds in retail will help poultry exports through development of modern processing units and cold chains,” he said.
India’s Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said earlier this month the country planned to liberalise investment rules to seek foreign funds to develop key sectors such as retail and infrastructure.
India’s poultry exports are dominated by eggs, mainly to the Middle East and Africa, with scant sales of processed items.
But the domestic poultry industry continues to grow at a fast pace - with the broiler segment averaging gains of 10 to 12 percent annually, while eggs show increases of 5 to 6 percent, the PFI chief said.
“Ours is a one of the fastest growing markets in the world as globally the consumption demand has more or less stabilised at 1 to 2 percent,” said Dhull, who heads one of India’s top ten poultry firms based in northern Haryana state.
In February, eastern Tripura state which shares a long border with neighbouring Bangladesh, reported fresh cases of bird flu, eight months after India reclaimed avian influenza free status.
“Bird flu cases occur frequently after a gap of six to eight months,” said Dhull, adding that PFI has been urging the federal government to mark out bird flu-prone areas to avoid any bans on poultry products in case of an outbreak.
Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee