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The Chicken War in Nepal


Devyani International, a Major Indian Company

When international food chains KFC and Pizza Hut opened in a high-profile location in Kathmandu three years ago, they were a big hit. Nepalis flocked to the outlets, waiting in long lines to eat there.

But there was also some grumbling about the control of the franchises by Devyani International, a major Indian company. And when KFC pronounced Nepali chicken "inferior," there were howls of protest from the agriculture ministry and chicken farmers.

Devyani International said that they couldn't use Nepali chicken as all of their chicken was sourced exclusively from Brazil.

Nepali Agriculture

Import of Indian fowl has been forbidden in Nepal since 2008 because of India's repeated, small outbreaks of Avian Flu. Devyani's 2009 claim that their chicken would be Brazilian was crucial to getting licensed without using Nepali chicken, and the matter was a major defeat for Nepali agriculture.

Chicken farmers and the ministry had a measure of revenge on Saturday. Tipped off, they intercepted two large trucks of chicken that had just entered the country from India and were bound for KFC in Kathmandu. The import documents declared that the chicken was Indian, not Brazilian.

Initial news reports said that the farmers unloaded over 22,000 pounds of chicken and destroyed it. The agriculture ministry later claimed that its inspectors had done the deed, perhaps to immunize the farmers against legal action. Four customs officials are in custody as well.

Labor Issues With Maoist-Affiliated Unions

Devyani International has had labor issues with their Maoist-affiliated unions; company officials say they have received death threats. The labor problems led to a month-long closure of both outlets last summer.

KFCs unions will surely raise a fuss over the chicken incident too, and government investigators will look at the company's deception, the illegal imports, and the apparent corruption of customs officers.

Meanwhile chicken imports for KFC will be choked off. Round two to the chicken farmers of Nepal.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors. Read more stories by John Child in Kathmandu.

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