1 Product, 2 nations, 3 months, 4ever?

India has become world’s top beef exporter, yet the standards followed across the Indian slaughter houses, fall far below acceptable global standards.

Shivani Kapoor | The Dollar Business

When Russia shut its doors on the US and European Union for food imports in retaliation for western sanctions, India eyed a window of opportunity for making its presence as an exporter of buffalo meat and dairy products to the country. India, to an extent succeeded in achieving a rare feat – country’s entry into Russian meat market – after the latter allowed import of buffalo meat earlier this year. But India’s attempt to seize the opportunity to unlock Russia’s meat market was short lived as the European nation imposed a temporary restriction on the import of buffalo meat from India (one of the world’s largest exporter) starting June 22 following foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) cases reported from Uttar Pradesh. Rosselkhoznadzor’s website showed temporary restrictions imposed on three out of four exporting companies from India. All the three of them are in Uttar Pradesh. Russia’s move limiting the supply of buffalo meat might not be music to the ears of Indian exporters, but the good news is that the restrictions are temporary. The development is an eye opener for the buffalo consumers as it also calls for a check on quality of Indian meat not only being exported to various parts of the globe but also consumed domestically. India has become world’s top beef exporter, yet the treatment of animals in Indian slaughter houses fall far below acceptable standards. In fact, US department of agriculture showed prevalence of various livestock diseases such as foot and mouth disease as one of the reasons for India’s meager share in world trade of animal products. Apparently, India’s share in global trade of animal products for 2013 stood at 0.89 per cent despite the country being top beef exporter. Going by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) data, the country is a home to 88 million buffaloes, which is 58% of the world's buffalo population. Vietnam Social Republic, Malaysia, Egypt Arab Republic, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been the major export destinations of buffalo meat from India. Opening doors Until 2015, Russia was among a few countries which had banned meat and poultry products from India following the occurrence of the FMD years ago. After a long period of ban, the country in December 2014 announced to open its market for India’s buffalo meat. Less than a week after it allowed buffalo meat imports from India, Russia also lifted a ban on the import of poultry meat from India. Its decision coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India. Four companies namely Amroon Foods, Fair Exports (India) and Frigerio Conserva Allana from Uttar Pradesh and Frigorifico Allana from Maharashtra were allowed to supply buffalo meat from the country. The first consignment weighing 409 tonnes was shipped in March this year after the Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor approved the two agencies for the delivery of the buffalo meat after a thorough inspection of the plants. According to APEDA, India exported 1,128 tonnes of buffalo meat to Russia bringing valuable foreign exchange to the tune $3.82 million in FY 2014-15. After Russia’s nod, Indian exporters were hopeful of seizing the opportunity and tapping the potential Russian market for buffalo meat. However, the restriction has called for measures to check the quality of meat exported. The development might have raised concerns about the quality of meat being exported, but the authorities have downplayed the restriction from the “over-cautious Russia”. “Russia seems to be extra cautious for the imports of food products from any country. There is nothing to panic since we have adequate checks in place. APEDA carries out all the inspection before approving the deliveries. The FMD is a rare occurrence and it is not going to impact the exports,” a spokesperson from the Federation of Indian Exports Organisations told The Dollar Business. He went on to add: “It is just being over-cautious and it has nothing to do with the ground reality of the situation. There might be a few cases but the checks are in place. It shouldn’t be concerned of what is happening here.” Notwithstanding the beef ban in few states, India replaced Vietnam to become world’s largest beef supplier last year, as it exported 14,49,758.64 tonnes. It remained the top exporter in FY 2014-15 as it exported 14,75,526.01 MT of buffalo meat products to the world for the worth of $ 4,781.16 million. The rising beef exports of India hold significance since the cow slaughter is banned states like Maharashtra and Haryana have banned beef and imposed punishment in case of violation. Ahead of polls last year, the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi had raised issued of India’s ‘Pink Revolution’ and the rising meat exports. The irony stands starker that the beef exports have been surging after the Modi-led BJP government came into power. The growth in buffalo meat supply can be gauged from the fact that it is now the country's top agricultural export, beating the more famous basmati rice.    

June 22, 2015 | 7:26 pm IST.