India-US Poultry Import Dispute at WTO Hearing24 July 2013
INDIA - The row between India and the US over import restrictions by New Delhi on poultry and poultry items from areas that have been hit by the bird flu are due before the World Trade Organisation this week.
The Commerce Department and the Animal Husbandry Department are to give evidence to the WTO Dispute Settlement Panel explaining why the restrictions were necessary to protect India from bird flu - even from areas that had only low pathogen strains of the virus.
The decision of the panel will determine if India can continue restricting import of cheap chicken legs from the US – which poses a serious threat to the domestic poultry industry – citing bird flu fears.
"Since this is the first panel hearing, we have to argue our case with conviction, as it would contribute hugely to the panels’ final verdict," a Commerce Department official told The Hindu Business Line.
The hearing on 24-25 July, where both sides will present their case and answer queries, will be followed by a second hearing at the end of the year, after which the panel will give its draft report.
Once the draft report is discussed and argued by both sides, the panel will give its final judgement.
The US had disputed India’s decision last year for banning import of poultry and poultry products on unscientific grounds.
It had argued that the ban imposed on countries' reporting outbreaks of low pathogenic notifiable avian influenza had no basis in science and was not supported by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
While there is no ban on import of chicken or poultry products from the US at the moment, there is a high risk of low-pathogen virus getting detected in one of its remote farms that would trigger the ban once again.
Because of the unpredictability of supply, Indian buyers are not willing to source US chicken despite the fact that it is available at less than half the domestic price.
According to estimates by the US poultry industry, including the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, the potential market in India for US poultry products is over $300 million a year.
India has argued that its restrictions were completely scientific and low pathogen virus also posed a serious risk.
TheMeatSite News Desk