Indians will soon be able to enjoy poultry products from Brazil as ‘JBS’, the largest meat processor in the South American country, is set to launch its chicken products that will include thighs as well as leg quarters in India through its subsidiary Seara.
Last week it was reported that Seara has got approval from authorities in India to sell its chicken products in the country.
Meanwhile, local poultry players are upset with the latest news as imports of poultry products rebounded in 2018 to 2019 after India lost a prolonged dispute at the WTO to America.
According to the recent Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) data, poultry product imports increased to 797.73 tonnes, valued at 5.45 million dollar for the April-January 2018-19 period. In the preceding financial year, poultry imports stood at 572 tonnes at 4.17 million dollars.
In addition, poultry imports from the United States went up the most, at 136.92 tonnes valued at 1.2 million dollars, in April to January 2018-19, as against 0.01 tonnes in last year.
Poultry players, who are facing a new threat, have sought for a level playing field to fight with low-cost producers like Brazil and the US, where the birds are fed on genetically-modified corn & soyabean.
In addition to higher maize imports, the poultry players also want the government to raise the bound duty on chicken product imports to defend domestic farmers.
Managing Director of Suguna, a large poultry player, B Soundararajan said, “While the current duty levels on imports might give a partial protection, ultimately cheaper imports would harm the domestic poultry sector”.
Presently, chicken portions like legs as well as sausages attract 100 % duty.
Soundararajan said, “Chicken legs that are not consumed in the West, are sold at a throwaway rates. In spite of 100 % duty, the imported chicken legs will still remain cheap in India”. He added that the production cost for chicken legs is estimated at 700 to 800 dollar per tonne in US. With 100 % duty, it will still be available at 1,500-1,600 dollar /tonne, even as the cost of production of processed chicken in India is around 1,800 dollar per tonne.
He said that the centre must provide a level playing field by permitting higher imports of maize, the main raw material for poultry sector. Soundararajan said “While maize prices are ruling at 300 dollar per tonne in India, the same is available to poultry producers in US and Brazil at 160-170 dollar per tonne. The centre is now allowing higher imports. How can we vie with such high prices”.
Already, the production cost has increased by more than 40% in the past 6 months on higher maize prices.
KS Ashok Kumar, founder of MAA Integrators said, “The increasing production cost is a big threat for local players as India becomes a profitable market for low-cost producers like the US & Brazil. Once out of trade, it will be hard for poultry farmers to make a comeback”.
According to Compound Livestock Feed Manufacturers Association, India’s per capita meat consumption is set to increase to 5.98 kg by 2025 from 3.35 kg in 2017 due to growing population and income levels.