India buffalo meat exports rise, despite BJP government

By Raghavendra Verma, in New Delhi

- Last updated on GMT

Indian buffalo meat exports grew by 16% from April to October 2014
Indian buffalo meat exports grew by 16% from April to October 2014

Related tags Buffalo meat Meat exports India Bharatiya janata party Beef

Concerns that India’s beef export industry might wither under the new Hindu nationalist BJP-led government have proved unfounded, as between April and October 2014, India exported US$2.66 billion’s worth of buffalo meat, a rise of nearly 16% over the same period in previous year.

According to the data released by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (Apeda), in terms of volume, Indian buffalo exports rose by 14% to 817,844 tonnes in these months.

The industry had been nervous after the election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in June last year, as he and key followers are vegetarians who oppose killing animals for food. Even during his election campaign he had opposed meat exports and referred the industry as the one involved in cow slaughter.

This is banned in India for Hindu religious reasons and buffalo meat (which has no such connotations and has a similar taste and texture) is often sold and exported as beef. However, after coming to power, Modi has not spoken on the subject and no adverse regulation or large-scale harassment of meat traders has been reported.

"We are not worried,"​ said Rashid Kadimi, chief executive officer at All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, "this growth [in exports] is normal."

However, the growth may not last as India is losing some of its price advantage to Brazil, whose currency has depreciated 18% against the US dollar since September last year. The Indian rupee, on the other hand, has remained stable.

Kadimi told GlobalMeatNews​, that the situation was very complex and Indian exporters were competitive in other ways, including the reliable availability of meat. Still, he said that the industry was taking some strategic measures to deal with the situation. "It is too early to discuss them in public,"​ he said, "it is usually company-wise, as each company has its own strong areas and markets."

Regarding the challenges faced by the beef exporters, Kadimi said that quality requirements were increasing in different countries, with consumers and regulators becoming more concerned about food safety. "Newer [test and inspection] dimensions are added from time to time,"​ he said, "When any mishap takes place it adds to the number of tests on animals."

Kadimi said that, internationally, the welfare of reared animals was a major concern, claiming that standards were high in India. "Farmers look after their animals as if they are their household members,"​ he argued. Efficient cold chain distribution within India is improving, he claimed, and improvements are being made to the transport of animals.

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