The poultry industry, which has suffered losses on account of the recent outbreak of avian flu in West Bengal, is eagerly waiting for the government's subvention on interest rates charged on loans extended to them by banks. The Reserve Bank of India, last week, had issued guidelines to banks suggesting a one-year moratorium on repayment of outstanding loans, conversion of working capital loans into term loans, and re-schedulement of term-loan repayment as a relief to the affected poultry industry. According to sources, the finance minister P Chidambaram may announce the government's subvention rates on loans extended to the poultry industry either before the Budget or may spell it out in his Budget speech. The Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had earlier announced that the government would work out separate relief packages for the poultry sector - one exclusively for poultry farmers in West Bengal and the other for the poultry industry in the country as a whole, which has suffered in sales due to a dip in prices in the country and the ban imposed by different countries on Indian poultry imports. The government's package would include subvention rates on interest charged by banks. He had assured that the financial package would be an improved one over that announced in March 2006 on account of the outbreak of bird flu. The March 2006 package contained 4% interest subvention, a one-year moratorium period for repayment of loans, conversion of working capital into loans, and extension of fresh loans for working capital. "The poultry industry had demanded zoning of poultry areas in the country based on geo-climatic conditions, so that exports from bird flu-free zones can be business as usual, ban on export of corn and soybean to augment feed availability, 7% central government's interest subvention on loans, and a two-year moratorium on repayment of loans,' said Anuradha Desai, chairperson of the National Egg Coordination Committee. The government has turned down the proposal for zoning of poultry areas, even though the industry had pointed out such zoning or compartmentalisation exists in the US and is allowed by the world animal health organisation - OIE. It has also refused to impose a ban on exports of corn or soybean. India has a poultry population of 489 million (nearly 3% of world's poultry), out of which 51% is concentrated in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. Due to the recent incidence of avian flu in West Bengal, culling operations were undertaken not only in those states but also in parts of the neighbouring states - Assam, Bihar, and Jharkhand.