Over five years after it imposed a ban on poultry meat imports from India, the European Union has now approved their shipment subject to tough conditions.
Faced with the spread of bird flu, the EU halted the import of poultry meat from India half a decade ago, but as fears of infection subsided, and after the country culled millions of birds, the EU has relaxed its quality specifications to help companies resume exports.
Indian authorities have been pressing for the move for the benefit of an export industry worth Rs500cr (US$84m) per year, of which the EU makes up 20-25% of this figure. Currently, India exports only poultry products, including eggs, rather than meat to EU countries, with Germany and the Netherlands its biggest markets.
Under terms of lifting the ban, companies require an amended model health certificate issued by the Export Inspection Council of India. A four-month transition period has been put in place for consignments with existing health certificates as long as they are signed before July 30. Only large-scale producers are expected to qualify for the new certification.
Last year, domestic poultry meat production is estimated to have remained flat at 3.5m tonnes, with per-capita consumption of 2.8kg a year. Meanwhile, table egg production grew from 66bn eggs in 2012 to 70bn, with per-capita consumption at 57 eggs a year. The wholesale poultry market grew by 8% last year to be worth around Rs58,000cr (US$9.8bn).
Over the past decade, the rising Indian middle-class with its newfound taste for non-veg food has turned the country into one of the fastest-growing markets for poultry.
While the EU could become a lucrative market for Indian poultry meat exports, it is expected to take some time before companies manage to meet the stringent regulations the bloc has put in place before exports can be approved.
Last week, the US hauled India to the World Trade Organisation to challenge the country’s ban on American poultry imports, which have been banned since 2007, also because of concerns over bird flu.
The US has told the WTO that India imposed the ban to protect its domestic industry in a move that violates global trade rules.
"The United States is the world's leader in agricultural safety and we are confident that the World Trade Organisation will confirm that India's ban is unjustified,” said US Trade Representative Ron Kirk at the time.
America believes its poultry exports to India could touch US$300m annually, if India lifted were to lift the ban.