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Rabobank Industry Note on Indian Buffalo Meat Exports

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An industry note on the Indian buffalo meat sector by agribusiness banking specialist, Rabobank positions the country as one of the world’s leading beef exporters.

According to the USDA, India's bovine (buffalo meat) exports have risen from 609,000 tonnes in 2009 to an expected 2,160,000 tonnes in 2013.

High world meat prices are encouraging India's farmers to utilise previously unproductive animals from the country’s large dairy herd. India accounts for 57% of the world's buffalo population (105 million as per 2007 Indian livestock census) and 15% of the world’s cattle population (199 million). This large population has given Indian an opportunity to participate in world bovine meat trade through the slaughtering of non-milking buffalos.

However, not being an FMD-free country, investments in the mid- and downstream of the supply chain will be required to harness the growth potential and gain access to new markets even though the upstream will continue to remain fragmented.

Currently, the 4th largest buffalo meat exporter in the world, India is expected to become number one in 2012. India’s buffalo meat exports are estimated at 1.5 million tonnes valued at around USD 2.85 billion in FY 2011/12, making buffalo meat one of the largest agricultural exports (by value) in the country, after rice and seafood.

Competitive pricing is one of the strengths of Indian buffalo meat, resulting from the use of non-milking buffalos for meat production. The industry’s growth rate of 4% p.a. over the past decade is supported by various government schemes in addition to private sector participation, which has led to herd building and ensured the availability of livestock. The strong herd growth can help sustain buffalo meat export for another 5-10 years.

Indian buffalo meat exports have grown significantly due to growing demand for beef trade, which traditional exporters have been unable to meet over the past three years. Due to challenges faced by some of the main beef producing regions, trade levels are rising, benefiting India. USDA expects global exports to rise by 7% in 2012.

Indian bovine meat supply chain

  • Supply chain of the bovine industry highly fragmented on the upstream side
  • Intensive buffalo farming not common
  • Animals typically bought from farmers or collectors by traders at weekly livestock markets
  • 4000+ recognised slaughterhouses plus several unauthorised places
  • 37 APEDA-registered integrated export-oriented abattoir-cum-meat processing plants
  • 39 APEDA-approved export-oriented processing plants
  • 15 serious players in Indian buffalo meat exports, with 6 players accounting for 85% of meat trade
Challenges

  • Lack of FMD-free status and traceability restricts entry into advanced markets
  • Low meat yields compared to international averages
  • Improvements needed in rearing, animal productivity and processing methods
  • Investment in better infrastructure and resources to train manpower required
  • Frequent intervention by local animal rights activists
Highlights of the report:

  • Indian buffalo meat industry will benefit from the economic growth in low value beef markets in SE Asia, Middle East and North Africa
  • High global meat prices resulting from a decline in herd size and the large liquidation during the GFC
  • Current high feed prices to result in further herd liquidation, which will keep global beef prices high
  • Elevated prices from flat global production of beef will help lower priced Indian buffalo meat gain market share
  • India not being an FMD-free country limits the industry’s market reach, restricting demand to emerging regions
  • Total buffalo herd size could potentially reach 115 million in 2012
  • Indian buffalo meat production has almost doubled in the last 10 years, increasing from 1.65 million tonnes in 2001 to 3.1 million tonnes in 2011
  • Current rate of meat production and herd expansion growth can support production growth until 2015 at an export growth rate of 25% p.a.
  • Current growth rate of production could challenge the supply base beyond 2015, needing a higher degree of attention towards herd building
  • Slow domestic consumption growth due to religious reasons
  • Regulatory restrictions do not impact Indian buffalo meat export
  • Government scheme to set up new abattoirs and modernise existing ones will support small-scale processing units
  • Strong global demand for Indian buffalo meat due to its leanness
  • Improved meat quality from better animal health management, greater efficiency in animal production and investments in feed
  • Buffalo meat also preferred as it is comparable to beef in terms of physicochemical, nutritional and functional properties as well as palatability and good binding properties
  • Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Philippines account for over 59% of India’s exports

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