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Import of South Indian eggs: Sri Lanka walks on Indian eggshells

13 March 2023 02:18 am - 8     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • The bird flu virus H5N1 had spread rapidly in Namakkal and Kerala since October 2022
  • Eggs brought from India can be sold in Sri Lanka for 15 rupees 
  • Two major Sri Lankan biscuit and cake manufacturing companies have refused to buy the much talked about eggs to be imported due to the presence of bird flu in India
  • A few years ago, eggs and coconuts were brought from India through Sathosa

 

 

With the increase in egg prices the government decided to import eggs to regulate its price. Although it was a good move, there was talk that bird flu might be introduced due to the import of eggs from India; a fact to which medical experts have given their attention to. When the government called for tenders, the three international suppliers who applied were said to be importing eggs from India. But presently bird flu is spreading rapidly in many states of India.


The State Trading Corporation (STC) confirmed that these eggs are imported from Namakkal in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. According to websites carrying Indian news like THE HINDU, NDTV, THE WEEK, INDIAN EXPRESS, OUTLOOK, and THE ECONOMIC TIMES- the bird flu virus H5N1 had spread rapidly in Namakkal and Kerala since October 2022 and the Tamil Nadu State Government had taken steps to control the spread of bird flu in Kerala and Namakkal. But such media outlets state that the risk of bird flu hasn’t disappeared completely. Accordingly, bird flu has been present in Namakkal and Kerala in mid-January and February 2023. Also, media websites had reported that bird flu is now spreading in many states of India. Thus, there are concerns whether bird flu will spread to Sri Lanka as a result of importing eggs from India.

 

No recommendation can be given to the import and export controller general to import eggs due to the recent outbreak of bird flu in India

-  Dr. Hemali Kothalawala Director General Department of Animal Production and Health 

 


All Ceylon Egg Producers Association Chairman Sarath Attanayake said that the bird flu is spreading all over India at present and therefore, the sale of eggs has decreased and the wholesale price of an egg in India is around 4 Indian rupees. According to Finance Ministry internal sources the wholesale price per egg of the 2 million Indian eggs that will be imported to Sri Lanka is 3.50 Indian rupees, he added. Since Minister of Trade, Commerce and Food Security Nalin Fernando’s recent personal visit, the importation process has been accelerated, according to Attanayake. When Minister Fernando was Sathosa Chairman he imported eggs and coconuts from India. Bird flu and coconut mite virus entered Sri Lanka and then the eggs and coconuts were thrown into the sea. Eggs brought from India can be sold in Sri Lanka for 15 rupees instead of 30 rupees. Domestic egg producers pay about 20 million rupees per month as taxes for chicken feed. Therefore if the government offers a tax relief to chicken feed, a local egg can be sold for 25 rupees, he added.


Director General of the Department of Animal Production and Health, Dr. Hemali Kothalawala initially stated that there is no problem associated with the importing of eggs. But she said that she cannot give permission to import eggs from India because of bird flu in that country. “No recommendation can be given to the import and export controller general to import eggs due to the recent outbreak of bird flu in India,” she said. 


But later the authorities pointed out that importing of Indian eggs will be allowed following control measures. They asked to refrain from peeling eggs by hand, to use gloves and to destroy eggshells. It is suspicious whether the reason for such measures is because there is a risk of the bird flu virus.

 

Currently, there is a bird flu epidemic in India and the Department of Animal Production and Health has provided us recommendations. According to those recommendations, checks will be conducted in India and in Sri Lanka after importation to confirm the absence of the virus

- Chamila Iddamalgoda STC General Manager

 

State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya recently announced that the tax of 50 rupees imposed on the import of eggs will be reduced to one rupee and eggs will be imported from India through the State Trading Corporation. The minister also said that eggs imported in this manner can be given to cake and biscuit manufacturers for 30 rupees. It was also learnt that it has been decided to give these eggs to two major biscuit and cake manufacturing companies. But those two companies have refused to buy eggs saying that if the bird flu epidemic in India arrives in Sri Lanka along with eggs, it will needlessly affect their industries.


Indian eggs are imported through the STC. When inquired, STC General Manager Chamila Iddamalgoda said that Indian eggs are yet to be imported to Sri Lanka. “All 2 million eggs are brought from the Namakkal area of South India. Currently, there is a bird flu epidemic in India and the Department of Animal Production and Health has provided us recommendations. According to those recommendations, checks will be conducted in India and in Sri Lanka after importation to confirm the absence of the virus. Only after then, the eggs will be released,” she added.
When asked about the purchase price of an egg she said that she did not have the price rates at the time this newspaper called her. This writer also asked her about the price rates foretold by egg producers and Minister Siyambalapitiya and she said that an egg cannot be sold for 30 rupees. “I don’t know how a price of 30 rupees per egg was decided. I don’t understand what the minister said. The price of an egg will be more than 30 rupeess.

 

Fees for checks should be added to the price. The price of an egg is not the purchase price. It’s the price fixed when it is imported to Sri Lanka. We pay in dollars. I can’t tell you how many eggs were purchased from India. We planned to bring the eggs to Sri Lanka during the first week of March. But as it takes time to test them, the process will be delayed. I wouldn’t understand if in the event the virus enters Sri Lanka undetected despite the tests. We planned to import eggs in mid-February. According to the reports received so far, there is no problem,” she added.
According to the NECC Egg Price report, the wholesale price of an egg in the Namakkal area has increased from INR 4 to INR 4.40 and a little more from mid-February to March 2. But when buying two million eggs, we can conclude that the price may be less. As of mid-February, the Indian Rupee stood at Rs 4.38-4.40 against the Sri Lanka Rupee (on 14-02-2023 and 18-02-2023). The price of the US Dollar against the Sri Lanka Rupee was 365.85 Rupees (15-02-2023). If so, even if two million eggs are bought at 4.40 Indian rupees, the value of one egg is 0.051USD. According to the State Ministry of Finance internal sources, an Indian egg costs 28 rupees when it arrives in Sri Lanka.


When we asked Dr. Kotalawala whether she could ensure that the bird flu virus would not be introduced to Sri Lanka because of Indian eggs, she said that the eggs have not arrived yet and she cannot provide answers to the media.

 

All we did was take policy decisions. They called for tenders for the import. We reduced the import tax. I cannot say exactly about the delivery date. They are imported under special conditions when there is a risk of bird flu in India

- Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Food Security Secretary Priyanka Athapattu

 

The Daily Mirror then tried to contact Minister of Trade, Commerce, and Food Security Nalin Fernando, but there was no response. After that, we spoke to the minister’s media unit and requested them to contact the minister to make him respond to the accusations made against him by the Chairman of the All Ceylon Egg Producers’ Association and the importation of eggs. After a while, the spokesman of the media department told us that the minister has a sore throat and hadn’t been answering the phone for a week and asked us to contact the secretary of the ministry.


We also tried to contact State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya to inquire about the exact price of an Indian egg. But the minister could not be contacted. A spokesperson of the minister’s media unit said that an Indian egg costs about 30 rupees when it arrives in Sri Lanka. “Only the State Trading Corporation knows about the purchase price and it does not inform us. What we did was reduce the tax from 50 rupees to one rupee. Eggs will be given to those who manufacture biscuits and cakes on a large scale,” he added.


Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Food Security Secretary Priyanka Athapattu said that eggs are imported by the State Trading Corporation. “All we did was take policy decisions. They called for tenders for the import. We reduced the import tax. I cannot say exactly about the delivery date. They are imported under special conditions when there is a risk of bird flu in India. The Department of Animal Production and Health has provided recommendations on importing eggs. The importers bring eggs after obtaining the necessary certificates from the relevant institutions in India,” Athapattu added.


We also inquired about the bird flu epidemic in India and about egg prices from the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka on 28-02-2023 via email; to hco.colombo@mea.gov.in. But till the time of going to press on 12-03-2023 there was no response for our mail from the Indian High Commission of Sri Lanka.


Commenting on this, a former Director of Agriculture, K.B. Gunaratne said that if eggs imported from India contain the bird flu virus H5N1, there will be no one to take responsibility. The State Ministry of Finance, Department of Animal Production and Health, State Trading Corporation, or the Ministry of Trade, Commerce, and Food Security will not take any responsibility in this regard. “If the bird flu virus enters Sri Lanka it would pose a serious threat to local poultry producers. A few years ago, eggs and coconuts were brought from India through Sathosa; which gave rise to the spread of the coconut mite virus. There was a risk of bird flu epidemic. But the agriculture officials managed the situation skilfully,” he added.


Furthermore, Gunaratne asked not to consume Indian eggs until an accepted certification is provided. If eggs imported contain the bird flu virus, the companies producing biscuits and cakes using them will be severely affected. There has also been a request to provide these eggs to eradicate malnutrition among children living in estates in the Nuwara Eliya district. If the bird flu virus is present, the lives of those children will be in great danger, according to Gunaratne. 


It is still too early to say that the import of Indian eggs will be a disaster like the Chinese fertilizer mishap. But Sri Lanka will keep its eyes open. The Daily Mirror reliably states that it is receiving information regarding financial frauds connected to these transactions and will publish them in the future following confirmation.


  Comments - 8

  • Fear Uncertainty and Dread Monday, 13 March 2023 01:32 PM

    If the some biscuit and cake makers refuse to accept cheaper priced ingredients then consumers will go the better value products. Bird flu is no more contagious and actually spreading than Caronavirus. The Covid precautions in factory will keep things safe. Once the baking process is done, all virus in product will be dead, so no real threat. The article seems supporting the no good egg mafia with a lot of fear, and dread, putting in uncertainty to scare. These business mafia tactics are well known here.

    anonymous Monday, 13 March 2023 02:13 PM

    That is a bold statement to make, the virus will be killed during the baking process but we cant make sure that each egg will be handled in a manner that will contain a potential spread of the virus. Especially when people are naturally careless/do not understand how to handle them safely. Additionally, this issue may be even bigger than covid because of the virus's ability to jump between species and rapidly mutate, with a 60% mortality rate.

    Grace Monday, 13 March 2023 03:04 PM

    Your answer trying to defy the spread of bird flu with explicit examples goes on to show that you are either a gov. stooge or a beneficiary of the transaction. God for you.

    Carl Piercy Monday, 13 March 2023 07:26 PM

    It is just 27km from India to Sri Lanka at the shortest point....Bird flu will most likely arrive with birds flying the short distance across the sea.

    Anil Pushpakumara Tuesday, 14 March 2023 01:29 PM

    We can sell every food item imported from India less than our own produces. This is will wipe out our poultry industry, specialy small to medium size ones. GOVSL should taje steps to bring down the feed cost

    ranjan Tuesday, 14 March 2023 02:29 PM

    Once again its the egg seller who will benefit. Indial or Local he will sell it at a higher price and make benefit.

    Bipin Joshi Wednesday, 15 March 2023 03:45 AM

    Malaysia is also importing eggs from Tamil Nadu. For them there is no Bird Flu but for Sri Lanka there is danger of Bird Flu. Great!

    Changu Wednesday, 15 March 2023 06:56 AM

    In future all Sri lankans will be designed in Sri lanka and produced in India.


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