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Poultry team for West Asia to allay bird flu fears

G. Gurumurthy

To press for lifting of import ban on poultry products

Ground realities
To put in perspective on the disease-free status of the farms in the South, especially Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
A detailed video presentation will also be made to show that products from the South are safe.

Coimbatore , July 3

A four-member delegation comprising officials from the Ministry of Agriculture/Animal Husbandry and poultry industry is visiting West Asia this week to allay their fears on bird flu and seek lifting of curbs imposed by some of the Gulf countries on import of India's poultry products in February last following the bird flu attacks reported then.

The delegation consisting of Ms Upma Chowdry, Joint Secretary, Dr Negi, Joint Commissioner in the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Mr R.K. Boyal, General Manager, Agricultural Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). Besides these officials, Mr P. Valsan, Secretary, All-India Poultry Products Exporters Association, will also figure in the delegation.

To appraise Gulf authorities

The delegation, which will visit Dubai and Oman (the two Gulf Council member-countries), will call on the officialdom at the animal health departments concerned there to personally appraise the Gulf officials on the ground realties prevailing in India with regard to the current status of the domestic poultry sector being free of bird disease.

The delegation members would also appraise authorities there on the safety measures initiated by the Government of India soon after the reported outbreak of avian flu in some of the farms in Maharashtra, including the large scale culling of affected bird population in those areas that had helped contain and localise the bird flu, according to Mr Valsan, one of the delegation members.

Mr Valsan told Business Line that the team will meet Mr Obaid Issa, Assistant Secretary General at the General Secretariate of Municipalities of UAE at Dubai and also the National Animal Health officials at the Sultanate of Oman.

Exports hit

The Gulf visit comes in the wake of drop in the export of poultry products, especially the table eggs to West Asia since February last in the wake of the avian disease fears. The egg trade in the South has been badly hit by the Gulf ban on imports. The annual shell eggs shipments to Gulf from the Namakkal region prior to the ban used to be about Rs 140 crore. The shippers from Namakkal were deprived of export business to the tune of Rs 50 crore in the last four months due to stoppage of export of eggs. Though Kuwait and Bahrain, the other two Gulf nations, continued to import shell eggs from India, their volume is said to be low unlike what was being imported earlier by Dubai and Oman.

Disease-free status

According to Mr Valsan, the delegation will seek to put it in perspective on the disease-free status of the farms in Southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which are situated over 2,000 km away from the farms in Maharashtra-Gujarat borders hit by the disease outbreak. This vast logistics divide within India's poultry region has not been properly put across to the Gulf consumers so as to underline the relative safety of the poultry products produced by the South Indian farms.

The series of over 2,000 blood samples tested in the Tamil Nadu (Namakkal) poultry farms in the last few months that had proved the region free from any bird disease would be shown to the Gulf authorities alongside a detailed video presentation during the meeting to drive home the point that the poultry products from the South are safe.

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