Mumbai: The Rs 7,500 crore Indian poultry industry is gearing up to step up its exports to the western markets which have banned poultry imports from the affected regions, following the outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) in South-East Asia and Pakistan. This was disclosed by representatives of the Indian poultry industry at a joint press conference held in Mumbai to reassure consumers of the safety of the country's poultry products
Why India is safe
- Indian farms are smaller and scattered
- We follow all-in-all-out system of rearing
- Life span of broilers is only 6 weeks
- Incubation period of the virus is only 5 days
- As there is a gap of 20 to 30 days between subsequent batches, the existence of live virus is almost nil
- Wild or migratory birds from any of these two countries cannot reach India within the life span of the virus
- Even if some migratory birds do enter India, they are unlikely to access hatcheries, due to their preferances for natural habitats.
The advent of bird flu seems to have translated into an opportunity for Indian poultry exports to neighbouring countries and the industry has received several urgent enquiries from many West Asian countries for their requirement of chicken and table eggs. This is because Indian chicken is considered safe for human consumption since the country is self-sufficient in poultry and poultry products and does not import any live bird / live vaccines or dressed meat.
Moreover, the virus spreads only though air and that too for distances up to two to three km only. Therefore, the possibility of Indian poultry contracting the virus is extremely remote, despite Pakistan's proximity to India since the pathogen reported there is of the low risk variety.
However, the industry is taking all precautions to ensure that it stays free from the bird flu contagion. Some of the measures adopted by the organized sector include strengthening the existing bio-security measures in farms, hatcheries, feed mills, transport mode and storages. Also veterinarians are constantly working towards checking the birds regularly at diagnostic labs to ensure that every chicken sold is healthy and safe to consume.
TIPS FOR CONSUMERS
- The virus is destroyed under ordinary cooking temperature and can be inactivated by simple cleaning procedures such as using soaps/detergents
- When the virus leaves the carrier its survival in the ambient temperature is very low
- Try to consume chicken sold in hygienic conditions from trusted branded breeders as the stringent quality checks adopted by them ensures protection of the birds from diseases.
So far no cases of avian influenza have been reported in India and the chances of it occurring in the future are remote, as stated by Health Minister Sushma Swaraj. So what makes Indian poultry safe?
- The technology and facilities for disease surveillance in India are far more advanced than in neighbouring countries. Analysts say that the technology in countries like Vietnam is at least 50 years behind India's.
- Imports from the affected region are negligible and they have been totally banned.
- Indian growers follow an all-in-all-out growing system, which ensures that different batches don't come in contact with each other. In fact there is a 20-30 day gap between batches.
- Farms and hatcheries are scattered unlike in the affected countries.
- Migratory birds from the worst affected countries cannot reach India within the life span of the virus. The scattered farms further reduce the chance of exposure to the migratory birds, who anyway prefer natural habitats, away from human settlements.
Representatives from leading branded poultry breeders and suppliers such as Venkateshwara Hatcheries, Godrej Agrovet Ltd, Suguna Poultry Products, Zorabian Poultry, Nensy Poultry, Hybro Poultry and C&M Poultry, along with Dr. Ajit Ranade, head-poultry science, Bombay Veterinary College, have come together to dispel fears of the virus affecting Indian poultry products and to reassure consumers of the safety of domestic industry.
According to Dr Ranade, avian influenza is a viral disease, which affects the respiratory and digestive system of the chicken and is carried in the bird's gut which is disposed off at the point of purchase. It is like common bird flu with symptoms such as sore throat, fever and cough.
Though infection can be transmitted to humans who come in close contact with live infected birds, there were no cases of it spreading from person to person and the life span of the virus is only five days. Moreover, the virus is not food borne and is destroyed while cooking.
Internationally prescribed bio-security measures were already in place much before the first case of the virus was reported abroad, says Dr. Ranade, and adds that safety measures like regulation of visitors, disinfecting of vehicles at entry / exit points, scientific disposal of waste, water sanitation ,etc, are routine for the Indian poultry industry.