Beef exports have doubled in three years between 2008 and 2011 and are set to scale further heights. In 2011, India edged out the US as the third largest exporter of beef.

Buffalo meat, known as carabeef in the global market, is shipped out of the country as beef. Technically, buffalo meat is treated as beef export. Though questions are being raised whether all consignments shipped are buffalo meat, official sources say that 99 per cent of the shipments are buffalo meat.

Moving up the list

This year, the US Department of Agriculture says, India is all set to end as the top beef exporter. India could export 1.5 million tonnes of beef compared with 1.28 million tonnes last year. This marks a significant growth since 2009 when 0.61 million tonnes were shipped from the country. (See Table)

“India is forecast to become the world’s leading beef exporter in 2012 due to an expanding dairy herd, efficiency improvements, increased slaughter and price-competitiveness in the international market particularly vis-à-vis Brazil,” the USDA said in its report in April.

“Indian buffalo meat is rising due to its competitiveness. Global buyers are also assured of our quality,” said Dr Tarun Bajaj, General Manager, Livestock Products, Agricultural and Processed Food Exports Development Authority (Apeda).

“International demand is rising and the growth rate in Australia, Europe and the US is static,” said Dr Bajaj.

“We exported Rs 8,000 crore-worth beef in 2010-11 and it could have easily topped Rs 13,000 crore last fiscal,” said the Apeda official. (Full details of 2011-12 exports are not available yet). Though there has been a drop in the value in the rupee, Mr Bajaj said it could at the most contribute an additional Rs 1,000 crore.

Global scenario

According to the USDA, global beef production in 2012 is likely to be 57 million tonnes, up marginally over 56.8 million tonnes produced in 2011.

Exports, on the other hand, will likely be a record 8.7 million tonnes fuelled by India, Columbia, Australia and New Zealand.

“India’s beef production is projected at 3.5 million tonnes based on an expanding dairy herd, increased slaughter and price-competitiveness in the global meat market compared to Brazil. As exports account for 44 per cent of production, growth in exports underpins production increases,” said the department.

According to 2007 livestock census, buffalo makes up one-third of the bovine herd in the country.

Buffalo is preferred to cow due to its adaptability to climatic conditions and high milk fat content as dairy production is fuelling the bovine sector. Since slaughter of cow is banned, beef production is driven by buffalo slaughter which is allowed. However, the slaughter is restricted to males and unproductive females.

“We are experiencing good growth in the Gulf, Africa and the Far-East,” said Dr Bajaj. “Our exports are rising since we have surplus meat. Also, our people due to rise in their income are shifting to lamb and other meat products, including poultry,” he said.

Pushing down Brazil

The USDA said Indian export have made inroads in West Asia, North Africa and South-East Asia, which is a key market for Brazil, as buffalo meat is priced lower in the price sensitive markets and is produced according to halal standards (meat prepared as prescribed by Islamic dietary law).

On the other hand, Brazil, which is seeing a constant decline in its beef exports, is dogged by shrinking availability of lands for grazing due to expansion in sugarcane and soyabean cultivation. Higher transport costs to get the produce to the ports are adding to the cattle sector woes.

(This article was published on June 21, 2012)
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