Delaware chicken could soon be back in India

(Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

(Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

World Trade Organization ruling could mean a return of U.S. poultry to markets in India is a step closer to reality.

India has blocked the import of poultry from the U.S. for more than seven years, claiming the move is to guard against the threat of avian influenza. That move has been opposed by American leaders, including Delaware’s Congressional Delegation, on behalf of the massive chicken industry in the First State.

A WTO dispute settlement panel ruled in favor of the U.S., agreeing that India’s ban violated numerous international trade rules. The panel determined that the ban was imposed without sufficient scientific evidence.

The WTO ruling won’t immediately lift the ban on poultry imports in India, but U.S. Sen Chris Coons said it is an important step in the fight.

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“Exports play a critical role in the health of America’s poultry industry,” said Coons, D-Del. “India’s unsubstantiated claims about the risk of avian influenza in American poultry have prevented Delaware chicken-growers from exporting their high-quality products to an important and growing market.”

The chicken industry in Delaware contributes more than $3.2 billion to the state’s economy and helps support more than 13,000 jobs. 

“India’s ban was thinly veiled protectionism,” said USA Poultry and Egg Export Council president James Sumner. “This ruling should send a signal to India and other countries that have placed similar bans on U.S. poultry that they are inconsistent with WTO rules.” 

Poultry industry experts estimate that the restrictions in India have prevented about $300 million worth of poultry from being exported. 

In 2012, the Indian ambassador to the U.S., Nirupama Rao, came to Delaware in a visit hosted by Coons. That visit included a meeting with Delaware poultry company leaders and a stop to see the University of Delaware’s poultry science research.

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