Shortage of cattle bones hit India’s gelatin manufacturers hard

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on January 18, 2021

India is a major manufacturer of gelatin, which finds wide application in the pharmaceutical industry in the manufacture of capsules

The drop in availability of cattle bones has put India’s gelatin manufacturers in a precarious position, struggling to utilise their installed capacity. Cattle bones are the key raw material for gelatin and its non-availability was mainly due to the drop in demand for meat following the closure of restaurants and eateries post the lockdown.

India is a major manufacturer of gelatin, which finds wide application in the pharmaceutical industry in the manufacture of capsules. The gelatin industry has been included as an essential industry by most state governments, even during the lockdown period.

Sajiv K Menon, Vice Chairman, Ossein and Gelatine Manufacturers Association of India, said that the gelatin industry in India has been a net exporter with exports far in excess of imports. However, with the drop in capacity utilisation, imports have overtaken exports for the first time in 2020.

“A concern is the huge growth in imports from China which have surged from around 530 tonnes in 2017 more than four-fold to 2,330 tonnes in 2020. And curiously, China does not permit the import of gelatin from India even though our exports reach most of the developed countries,” he said.

The requirement of the domestic gelatin manufacturers is around 18,000 tonnes of bovine bone per month against which, the present supply is only around 13,000 tonnes.

Increase in prices

The shortage has led to sharp increase in raw material price which has gone up by nearly 60 per cent in the last three years, with almost half this increase post the lockdown. Additionally, the supply chain has been dominated by traders. Chinese manufacturers have cashed in on this situation and gelatin imports from that country have registered an increase of 2.5 times in the last one year, he said.

Menon, who is also the Managing Director of the Kochi-based Nitta Gelatin India, said that the domestic gelatin industry could once again become competitive by allowing bone imports from all countries.

Currently, bone imports are allowed only from countries classified under Negligible and Controlled status countries in the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) index. The gelatin manufacturers have been demanding permission for bone import from undetermined BSE risk countries also and have made representations to the Union Government.

“Gelatin production is a safe process. Unlike in India, there is no such restriction on import of bones even in European countries and Japan and the companies are allowed to import bone from anywhere. If import of bone by actual users is liberalised, the companies can operate close to their installed capacity,” Menon added.

Published on January 18, 2021

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