Nearly seven months after banning the import of poultry products following an outbreak of bird flu in India, Bhutanese officials are making arrangements to allow "restricted" processed chicken from the country.
A processing unit in India's West Bengal state has been identified from where the processed meat would be imported. Livestock officials said frozen or chilled chicken would be dressed, the innards removed and neatly packed.
Last month, a technical team comprising officials from the livestock department, the National Center for Animal Health and the health ministry visited the unit located near Siliguri and declared it as satisfactory after evaluation.
Pasang Tshering of the National Center for Animal Health said the unit had agreed on the safety standards to be implemented during the import of processed chicken.
"It is not altogether a lift on the ban," Bhutan's national newspaper Kuensel quoted him as saying.
"We are taking a cautioned approach by exercising a partial lift of the ban."
However, a total ban on the import of eggs and layers would prevail until a study was completed for suitable arrangements. Tshering said it would not be possible to control the import of eggs if the ban was lifted partially.
Bhutan had imposed an indefinite ban on the import of poultry and related products in February following the outbreak of H5N1 virus in poultry in India's Maharashtra state.
Bhutan's major poultry imports come from West Bengal. Records show that of the five entry points, Phuentsholing alone registered imports of 168,738 kg of chicken and about 2,240 cardboard boxes of eggs in the past year.
The ban has triggered an unprecedented rise and scarcity in the price of locally bred chicken and eggs.
In July, the livestock department began negotiating with the Indian government to establish a restricted lift on the ban and resume controlled and monitored import.
The department had sought a declaration of some poultry establishments as free of diseases with strict bio-security and surveillance measures in place, or the creation of compartments ensured free of bird flu.
Last month, the Indian government officially declared the country as 'bird-flu free' based on the report of the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL).