A day before US President Donald Trump lands in Ahmedabad on a two-day visit to India, a poultry trade body has urged PM Narendra Modi to protect the domestic dairy sector and not succumb to pressure to offer duty concessions to the United States. In a letter to the PM, the Poultry Federation of India has urged him to "resist the temptation" of opening the poultry sector to competition from American dairy products by slashing import duties as sought by the US as it might put over two crore jobs at risk.
"About $100 million worth Indian economy and about 4 crore rural jobs involved in poultry, maize, oilseed, bajra and wheat will be destroyed if India reduces the duties on poultry products from the US," the letter said. It added, "If the Indian government is keen on pleasing Trump, it should allow the import of feed raw materials like soya and maize at lower duty."
This comes after another trade body, RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), expressed its opposition to any tariff concession or market access for products that might impact farmers' income. "If it is related to the livelihood of the people or religious issue or supplementation of the farmers' income, one cannot support (it)," SJM National Co-convener Ashwini Mahajan had said referring to media reports of India offering to open up dairy and poultry sector for American companies.
The SJM, which makes stern representations in matters of India's commerce policy under the NDA government, has been vocally protectionist in terms of external trade. The body, along with several farmers' and small traders' group, had last year pressurised the government to not include the dairy sector in the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega trade deal including China, South Korea, Australia, Japan and New Zealand apart from 10 ASEAN countries.
They argued it will adversely affect the livelihood of millions of people in the country. The government later pulled out of the proposed pact saying the deal was not in the "national interest".
It is widely expected that a limited 'mini' trade deal between India and America will be signed during the upcoming Trump visit. In order to get some of America's trade preferences restored, India may offer few concessions such as opening the dairy sector and cutting tariffs on chicken legs from 100% to 25%. Industry sources said that the Indian government is well aware of the concerns of the local dairy and poultry sectors and would unlikely go against them.
(With inputs from agencies)