India’s export of buffalo meat could more than double if the males of the species are reared well, according to researchers. The country’s export of the meat is now around 1.4 million tonne from a total domestic production of 2 million tonne
According to S K Mendiratta, Principal Scientist, Indian Council for Agricultural Research affiliated Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, around 14 million male calves die or are killed annually and “if 70% of them could be reared for meat purpose, the availability of buffalo meat for exports could be doubled.”
In FY17, India exported buffalo meat worth Rs 26,303 crore which was marginally lower than the previous year. Over the last three financial years, buffalo meat shipment has surpassed that of basmati rice to be the biggest exportable commodity under the country’s agricultural and processed food products exports basket.
During 1951-2012, the count of male calves aged below one year have increased from 2.9 million to 10.8 million while the female calves population has grown from 4.2 million to 20.2 million.
As farmers prefer female buffalo because of milk production, more than 85% of total buffalo population of 108.7 million are females. Once the female buffalo stops producing milk, the farmer sells it to the export processing units which fetches additional income. “Male calves and buffalo are neglected which could be harnessed to boost farmers’ income,” Mendiratta stated. Besides, there are largely no restrictions on buffalo slaughter.
The average retail price of buffalo meat is Rs 130-150 per kg in comparison to average price of mutton at Rs 400 per kg, fish atRs 200-500 per kg and chicken at Rs 180-200 per kg. “Being relatively low in fat and cholesterol and good in physico-chemical and functional properties, buffalo meat is one of the most healthy red meat,” the scientist from IVRI has stated.
According to estimated worked out by Mendiratta, the cost of feeding a calf to grow from 40 kg to around 350 kg is in the range of Rs 9,000-10,500. Along with the cost of labour, medicine and other costs, selling price of calves would be in the range of Rs 20,000-30,000. “This would provide an additional income for the farmers for rearing male calves,” he said.
The suggestion to go for rearing of male calves comes at a time when many states have strict cow protection law which makes killing of cows as criminal offence. Uttar Pradesh, which has a share of more than 57% of buffalo meat processed for exports, had decided to close down illegal abattoirs.
Currently, there are around 75 mechanised abattoirs and buffalo processing plants set up by the private sector, mostly in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. These units follow all the sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements of the World Organisation for Animal Health.