1st August, 2006: SRI LANKA - Sri Lanka may lift restrictions on imports of poultry from August, if it gets the green light from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
“If the OIE permits Sri Lanka to import poultry from any country, we are able to grant permission to local importers to import”, Dr. S K R Amarasekara, Director General of the Department of Animal Production and Health told LBO on Tuesday.
The Department expects to get the go-ahead from the world animal health body by August 10 to allow imports from all countries without restrictions.
Sri Lanka imposed controls on imports of poultry and poultry related products from countries hit by avian flu in 2004, but has since begun relaxing them.
Controls on imports from India, including poultry feed like maize, were removed late last month. Sri Lanka imports 90 percent of its 200,000 metric tonne annual maize requirements from India.
According to Dr. D D Wanasinghe, Chairman of the All Island Poultry Association, the restrictions were lifted a bit early for countries like India since there have been sporadic outbursts of the avian flu in some parts of the country.
“It would have been wise to wait for a confirmation that these outbreaks were eradicated before importing parent stock from India”
Sri Lanka has had no reported outbreaks of Avian Influenza to date.
Meanwhile, the poultry industry is also lobbying the government to reduce a 15 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on chicken to bring down prices for consumers.
“Under the current system, the production and sale of day-old chicks, sale of poultry feed and sale of broiler chicken as well as processed chicken are taxed at 15 percent.”
Taxes make up about 32 rupees of the cost of a kilo of chicken, currently selling at 228 rupees a kilo. Lowering taxes on chicken could lower prices by as much as 15 to 20 percent, Wanasinghe says.
“We have made a request to the Treasury to lower the VAT to about five percent.”
The Association also wants a 20 percent levy on imports of poultry feed such as maize – in place since last year – removed. Talks with the Treasury are still ongoing.
Sri Lanka’s poultry industry is worth an estimated 84 billion rupees.