Beef exports

Rising stakes

Print edition : July 24, 2015

At a meat shop in New Delhi. Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

India’s meat exports, which bring in significant revenue every year, have been on an uptrend in recent years, with beef accounting for a large chunk of the trade.

India’s meat exports surged ahead in the financial year ended March, crossing Rs 30,000 crore and continuing an uptrend seen over the past five financial years—a period of remarkable rates of growth—according to data from the Department of Commerce under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The vast majority of the meat that leaves Indian ports for export destinations ranging from Africa to West Asia to Baltic countries is beef, with sheep and goats accounting for a minor chunk, which has also been growing at a healthy pace.

The biggest moneyspinner among all meat export categories is frozen, boneless beef, with the major markets being Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt, Thailand and Saudi Arabia, while Algeria, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates figure among the minor destinations.

Revenues from the exports of frozen, boneless beef touched Rs 28,027.23 crore in 2014-15, compared with Rs 8,508.93 crore in 2010-11, a jump of 229 per cent.

Figures for the latest year show that Vietnam accounted for 45.50 per cent of this category, bringing in Rs 12,748.29 crore. Interestingly, Vietnam accounted for only 14.76 per cent in 2010-11.

From a regional perspective, Asia was the largest market for frozen boneless beef, earning Rs 22,743.01 crore in 2014-15, growing 11.54 per cent from the previous year, and zooming 267 per cent from 6,189.28.94 crore in 2010-11.

Demand from Africa has been steadily rising, more than doubling from Rs 2,022.20 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 4,535.70 crore in 2014-15, while the Baltic region’s appetite for Indian beef has been growing at a healthy rate, from Rs 280.13 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 723.80 crore in 2014-15.

Along with boneless beef, frozen edible bovine offal also contributed significantly to the overall beef export market, accounting for receipts of Rs 702.53 crore in 2014-15, jumping a massive 18 times from just Rs 38.34 crore in 2010-2011. (Offal refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal.)

The category of bovine meat, fresh or chilled, accounted for Rs 474.83 crore in 2014-15, marking a near-tenfold increase from Rs 49.57 crore registered in 2010-2011.

Sheep meat, a favourite among Islamic nations, brought in Rs 785 crore in 2014-15, the bulk of it from fresh or chilled meat (Rs 627.75 crore) and the rest frozen meat (Rs 157.50 crore). The figure is a huge improvement from barely Rs 222 crore just five years back.

A little-known fact is that the country also exports several crore worth of live goats every year, with the amount for the fiscal ended March hitting Rs 68.01 crore, compared with Rs 50.87 crore in 2010-11.

The United States-based Beef Magazine, which tracks the global beef production and export industry, reported that India was the world’s third largest exporter by volume in the 2014 calendar year—behind Brazil and top-ranked Australia—clocking 1.36 million tonnes during the January-November period, a growth of 17 per cent over the previous year.

According to the magazine, the value of Indian exports per kilogram is only $3.21, compared to Brazil's $4.72, Australia's $5.30 and Canada's $5.61. Most of the beef that India exports is water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef.

As an industry that brings in higher revenues with every passing year amid healthy and widespread global demand, especially for beef, meat exports ought to be encouraged. Unfortunately, the government is only hindering its growth by banning slaughter in certain States and forcing the closure of abattoirs.

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