National production nears pre-Avian Flu 2 million per day level
CAIRO: The Poultry Import Committee (PIC) is recommending the government end duty-free poultry imports upon expiration in March of the time frame allotted by the Ministers Councils, and not pursue further extensions.
With national poultry production nearing its pre-Avian Flu level of 2 million chickens per day, local producers argue there no longer exits a need to give incentives to importers.
Egyptians consume about 2.4 million chickens per day. The government s rounding up of more than 30 million chickens last winter as a result of Avian Flu outbreaks increased the market shortage to more than 1 million chickens per day.
But according to government figures, waiving the 32 percent duty on poultry imports has done little to fill the gap between supply and demand. Since opening the door in October, just 37,000 tons have been imported by the private sector until January.
Talib Ali, regional animal health and production officer for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations organization, says importers faced difficulties including the fact most Egyptians are still not accustomed to eating chilled or frozen poultry. He also said finding the right suppliers proved challenging.
Importing poultry is not like buying pencils from China, Ali says. You have to buy them from a country with no animal diseases, one that follows Islamic Sharia laws in slaughter, and at a good price; so it s not easy.
Mohamed El-Shafei, vice chairman of the Egyptian Poultry Producers Association and managing director of Misr Arab Poultry Companies, says Egyptians, who generally continue to prefer locally grown chicken, have not been properly introduced to alternative frozen chicken mainly because of the limited quantities ordered and the high prices at which they are offered.
El-Shafei says PIC s recommendation is free of bias because it includes representatives from EPPA and consumer protection NGOs, and is headed by Ministry of Trade and Industry Advisor Al Sayed Aboul Komsan.
National production is expected to reach 2.6 million chickens per day by mid-2007, he adds, which calls for the return of the duty.
In November, Minister of Finance (MOF) Youssef Boutros Ghali said the government is preparing a new law to eliminate the sale of live poultry by 2010 in order to increase safe local production and help curb inflation. The law is now being drafted for presentation to Parliament in its current session.
Under the proposed legislation, MOF would enter as a partner with private poultry distributors to fund the establishment of MOA-monitored abattoirs.
The facilities would then be used to produce chilled or frozen poultry, replacing backyard farms and the current practice of selling live poultry through private butchers.
The World Health Organization estimates Egyptians rely on poultry for about 60 percent of their animal protein intake.