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The All India Poultry Exporters Association wants the government to either ban the importation of chicken meat produced with biotech feed ingredients or allow Indian farmers to plant the more productive biotech soybeans and corn.

It is not known if the government will be amenable to either approach. Most likely, it will avoid triggering another dispute with the U.S. and not ban that type of chicken meat. The current administration is positively inclined to allowing Indian farmers to plant biotech crops, but it is facing strong opposition from some groups. The government is also under pressure from farm organizations to allow the production of a domestically-developed biotech mustard variety, which has a 22-30 percent higher yield than non-GM strains, in drier parts of the country.

India is a very large potential market for chicken meat despite its large Hindu population. Because of urbanization and the declining influence of Hinduism, the percentage of the population no longer strictly vegetarian has increased to about 75 percent, and additional growth in the future is likely. A survey of households in 2011/12 found that 38 percent consumed chicken meat, up from only 8 percent in 1993/94.

Annual per capita chicken meat consumption in India is only about 3 kilograms. Other than the low per capita income, the main factors preventing more rapid consumption growth are the higher price for chicken meat and the fact that live birds comprise 95 percent of such purchases. There is only a very small market at present for processed chickens or parts. That will probably change as growing imports of U.S. leg quarters will boost consumer demand and ultimately force the Indian industry to also begin slaughtering chickens and offering parts for sale. There clearly will be short-term pain for the industry, but it will probably lead to much larger domestic demand for chicken meat over time.

(This article was originally published in the 25 October 2016 issue of Ag Perspectives as part of the OIlseed Highlights report by John Baize. Click here to find out more about subscribing to Ag Perspectives.)

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