New Delhi: US insistence that India import dairy products sourced from animals that are fed blood meal may prove to be a roadblock in New Delhi’s efforts to get reinstated into a coveted list of countries enjoying duty-free exports to the US.
India has cited “cultural and religious sentiments” to take a “non-negotiable” stand against US demand, despite experts saying there is a scientific basis for such a decision too
Non-agreement on this issue is one of the major reasons why US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he intends to end preferential trade treatment for India under generalised system of preferences (GSP) that allows $5.6 billion worth of Indian exports to enter the US duty-free.
“India has clarified that while our certification requirement, that the source animal should not have been fed animal derived blood meal, is non-negotiable given the cultural and religious sentiment, the requested simplified dairy certification procedure, without diluting this requirement, could be considered,” said a statement by the Ministry of Commerce.
Under Indian norms for the import of milk and milk products, the importer or manufacturer must certify that “the source animals have never been fed with feeds produced from internal organs, blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin.”
Sources in the commerce ministry said they are ready to deliberate with the US within the 60-day period, the duration after which Trump’s decision will take effect, so that India keeps receiving GSP benefits.
“However, the issue of US wanting India to import dairy products sourced from animals fed with blood meal cannot be flexed,” said a ministry official on condition of anonymity.
The US has time and again invoked scientific studies to suggest that the blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin in the cattle feed get absorbed into their system in three months, while the Indian side wanted Americans to certify that their animals had “never” been fed on a non-vegetarian diet as mentioned above or with beef.
The US demand comes after years of lobbying from industry bodies.
The National Milk Producers Federation and the US Dairy Export Council, two American lobby groups, went on record last year to say that India has “maintained unscientific dairy certificate requirements for dairy imports” and has “refused extensive good-faith efforts to restore trade in dairy products between the US and India”.
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
The US dairy industry claims that if India provides market access, exports would increase by up to $100 million. This is one of the major reasons why US believes that India shouldn’t be given a continued waiver.
On the other hand, India’s stand is not new. Since the Atal Bihari Vajpayee administration in 2003, India has required that all imported dairy products be derived from animals that have never consumed anything containing “internal organs, blood meal, or tissues of ruminant origin”.
The current NDA government has been basing its arguments on article 20 (a) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), 1994 which states that members can adopt or enforce measures that are “necessary to protect public morals”.
Ashwini Mahajan, the general secretary of RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch, opined that India should stick to its stand, adding that consuming dairy products from "meat-fed" animals was strictly against the ethos of the nation.
"US should find another trade partner if it wants to export dairy products sourced from blood meal-fed animals. In fact, India has no dearth of bovine. Dairy products from Indians vegetarian cattle can be a suitable substitute. The European foot and mouth, mad cow disease spread only because they served non-vegetarian meal to them," said Mahajan.
None of the dairy traders News18 spoke to had any problem with India's resistance.
Blood meal is a high protein dietary supplement for cattle that utilises cattle or pig's blood from slaughterhouses. Made from drying blood to a powdery substance, blood meal is a commonly used feed in dairy cattle diet to meet amino acid needs. According to Feedipedia, blood meal has shown to be a satisfactory substitute for other protein sources in various animal production diets for dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, various fish species and silkworms.
It is available worldwide, but its sale and utilisation are regulated in some countries. On the basis of past studies, Feedipedia said it also improved milk production and milk protein yield in dairy cows.
Meanwhile, drawing a parallel with the Codex Alimentarius-recognised Islamic and Jewish dietary code, which is applicable to Halal and Kosher foods, India has historically held that religious sentiments would not allow for the import of dairy products such as cheese that was manufactured from the milk of cattle fed on blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin or those which contain animal rennet and are unlabelled.
The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally recognised standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to foods, food production and food safety developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation. It recognises religious and cultural sensitivities.
Apart from this, Washington has demanded lower rates on seven tariff lines, including mobile phones, smart-watches and telecom network equipment. The import duty on these is 20 percent, yielding revenue of $3.2 billion to India.