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India’s hard bargain: Free import of chicken legs from US for basmati exports


The savoury chicken tandoori drumstick may soon become inexpensive in India as the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has suggested allowing free import of American chicken legs to start a dialogue on a bilateral investment treaty with the US.

Chicken legs have no viable market in the US, where consumers prefer white meat like chicken breast and consider legs as ‘harmful’ red meat. So the unwanted frozen chicken legs are exported at throw away prices to Central Asia, India being one such country.

But given that the domestic poultry industry fears that allowing free import of chicken legs would be detrimental to their interest as it will eventually wipe out our small farmers and nascent industry, India currently has a 100 percent import tariff on cut chicken (chicken legs) and 30 percent tariff on non-cut chicken.

Reports, however, have hinted that the US is eyeing the growing market for chicken legs in India once the dispute over import restrictions imposed by India on poultry products from countries reporting outbreak of low-intensity bird flu, is settled by the World Trade Organization.

The National Chicken Council estimates that U.S. poultry exports to India could exceed $300 million annually if appropriate, fair market access was provided in accordance with India’s obligations as a member of the WTO.

Also, with rising food inflation, the Indian government, it seems, is willing to put consumer interest before that of producers, which is why perhaps it is mooting the idea of allowing free import of chicken legs from the US in return of the US government allowing shipments of Indian basmati rice, pomegranate and table grapes and immigration reforms that will help Indian IT professionals, according to a Times of India report

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