Over the last few decades, India has become one of the leaders in buffalo meat exports. It has also managed to build an advantageous standing of being a capable and consistent exporter of risk-free, low-fat, healthy and economically priced meat. In fact, in 2016/18, it ranked first in buffalo meat exports and third in total meat exports (sheep, goat and buffalo) after Brazil and Australia due to its massive 512 million livestock population (excluding poultry) which is used for meat production.
Today, amongst Indian states, Uttar Pradesh (UP) contributes to over 64 percent to the overall meat export revenue and is the major exporter of buffalo meat followed by Punjab and Maharashtra, with export to almost 70 countries. UP also accounts for the highest share (28 percent) of the total buffalo population followed by Rajasthan (12 percent), and houses almost half of the total number of abattoirs cum meat processing export units in the country. It is thus natural for UP to be at the forefront of meat exports.
It must be stressed here that Indian farmers rear buffaloes for dairy or as work animals. Only when they become unproductive or are considered as spent, are the animals used as a value to meat production with their skin for leather being the biggest bi-product. Apart from this, poultry feed supplement, marine feed, gel bone for the pharmaceutical industry, and tallow, the backbone of the Biodiesel industry, is also derived from the buffalo.
While the Centre has been encouraging the meat industry and the food processing ministry by providing aid of up to 50 percent of the cost of setting up a unit; the government is now focusing on the UP due to its high buffalo population.
Additionally, water, labour, infrastructure and various programmes on buffalo breeding, veterinary and disease control are far efficient in UP than other states. There is also an absence of social taboo on buffalo meat. The UP meat processing industry employs a large population of almost 25 lakh people, directly or indirectly. On a daily basis, a 50 MT/Day Plant generates 1500-2000 direct jobs, thus leading to the possibility of large scale employment.
Also, modern and up-scaled abattoirs, logistics and cold chain are a huge opportunity given that the majority of Indian population is non-vegetarian and looks for clean and hygienic meat. The potential also lies in frozen meats, ready to eat and semi-finished products raising profitability. To drive conditions for a bright future and boost economic growth, Prime Minister's Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan stimulus package of Rs 15,000 crore for the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development fund (AHIDF) exemplifies just that.
Starting 2020-2021, one of the objectives is to increase the meat processing capacity and move to an organised meat market. This will not only generate employment, the need of the hour given the current COVID-19 situation, but it will also promote the export contribution of the meat sector. With this push, this sector is also expected to witness the establishment of new meat processing units and strengthening of the existing ones along with an up-gradation of value-added products, and large scale integration of meat processing facilities in rural, semi-urban and urban areas. With this support of the AtmaNirbhar Bharat plan, UP can upgrade its resources and lead the way in meat exports.
In his recent CII speech, PM Modi stated that whilst India is the second-largest producer of raw hides in the world, its global contribution for hides and finished leather products is negligible, with manufacturers needing to import such raw materials. This can be completely taken from the spent buffaloes whose hides can be used for the leather industry by providing manufacturers with ready and cost-effective raw material. Consequently, there remains ample room for opportunity, growth and success.
UP is still the highest producer of meat for export. While in 2016-2017, the buffalo meat exports were valued at Rs 26,161.49 crores, it reduced to Rs 25,168.31 crores in 2018-2019. India exported meat products to the world reduced further to about Rs 22,668.47 crores during 2019-20 and from April-July 2020, the exports have been only Rs 5468.88 crores. Despite the dwindling numbers over the years caused by sluggish demand and the ongoing coronavirus, meat exports could shore up economic growth.
Also, with changing purchasing powers, urbanisation and food habits, and increasing demand of meat, its exports have the potential to add to high income and foreign exchange earnings. It is also observed that 75 percent revenue net is accrued to the farmer for purchase of raw material whereas no other agri product benefits farmers directly in comparison.
In view of the recent AHIDF guidelines, using spent animals leading to sustainable livestock development, developing secondary industries and livelihood opportunities, and creating wealth from waste should be the mantra for states, especially UP. Ultimately, UP needs to aggressively encourage its massive meat processing industry, and help India achieve an increased and sustained economic growth. The opportunity to reach 50000-55000 crores can then be a reality and the surest exercise for doubling the farmers’ income.
—The author Fauzan Alavi is Spokesperson for All India Meat & Livestock Exporters Association. The views expressed are personal
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)