Ban on sale, storage of poultry leaves owners of restaurants, meat shops worried

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New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) The civic bodies' decision to ban sale and storage of poultry or processed chicken meat left the owners of meat shops and restaurants in the national capital worried on Wednesday as they termed the order 'needless' and said it would cause a huge loss to their businesses.

All the three MCDs -- North, South and East -- on Wednesday imposed a ban on sale and storage of poultry or processed chicken meat by shops and restaurants with immediate effect in view of the bird flu situation in the national capital.

According to the municipal corporations, owners of restaurants and hotels will face action if egg-based dishes or poultry meat and other products are served to customers.

Anurag Katriar, president of the National Restaurant Association of India, said that the ban makes no sense.

'There is enough scientific evidence that any dish that is cooked at 70 degrees Celsius is safe for consumption. It would have been understandable had there been a restriction on the consumption of cold meat and salads. This ban will dampen the consumption of chicken which was already subdued,' Katriar said.

He said removing chicken from the menu will discourage customers from eating out.

'This decision will have a massive impact on the industry commercially. Poultry is the highest selling segment on every non-vegetarian menu. If chicken is not served, people might not step out for dining out at all, making it worse for restaurants,' the restauranteur said.

Katriar said that the ban would be a huge setback for the restaurant industry that is already grappling with COVID-19 losses.

'We as an industry are going through an existential crisis. We can't stay afloat without adequate support from all stakeholders which includes the government,' he said.

Delhi Meat Traders Association general secretary Irshad Qureshi said that the ban is oblivious to the 'heightened hygiene' maintained at the poultry farms from where most of Delhi's chicken is sourced.

'Ninety per cent of the chicken that comes in Delhi is farmed in Haryana, and these farms have high levels of hygiene, and crores of rupees are spent to maintain and run these farms.

'And even after that, the fact that the meat will be cooked at high temperature removes all risk of contamination,' Qureshi said.

He said that the decision would 'destroy' not just their livelihoods, but also affect the general public.

'Most people don't buy mutton. It is expensive, and a lot of people avoid it because of health related concerns. Chicken has always been the most selling item. If we don't get chicken, what will we sell, and what will the middle class people buy,' he asked.

The Delhi Meat Traders Association is a body comprising 6,000 licensed meat shops, out of which, Qureshi said, nearly 2,500 shops sell 'only chicken'.

'What will they do now? And most of their shops are on rent. The ban has made it extremely challenging for them,' he said, adding that the decision making should have involved their representatives as well.

'They should have had a conversation with us before taking this step, since we are the ones who are the most affected sector,' Qureshi said.

Restaurants have already started feeling the impact of the bird flu scare.

Shyam Thakur, co-founder of Asian restro bar RYU in Gurgaon said they have seen a '70 per cent slowdown in chicken orders'.

'We have been witnessing a sluggish demand for poultry items as much as 70 per cent slowdown in chicken orders.

'Chicken takers are less. People are avoiding ordering chicken. We are directly sourcing chicken from the farms and have seen less heat in the market with the mandi closure,' Thakur, also the founder of Momo King, said.

Testing of samples of crows and ducks had confirmed bird flu cases in the national capital on Monday, prompting the Delhi government to impose a ban on sale of processed and packaged chicken brought from outside the city.

The Ghazipur poultry market has also been closed by authorities.

Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Giriraj Singh on Monday had said, 'There is no need to be scared. I urge consumers to eat after proper cooking at a particular temperature. Eggs are also safe to eat.' Bird flu is reported in India every year but there has not been a single report of human transmission, he had said, but added that the central government is alert and taking measures to contain its spread in poultry farms. TRS BUN AAR AAR