Linking meat exports and terrorism, Maneka Gandhi glosses over a few facts

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 16 2014, 17:44pm hrs
Maneka GandhiUnion Minister for Women and Child Welfare Maneka Gandhi addressing a seminar on 'India for Animals 2014' in Jaipur. (PTI)
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhis pointed reference to milking animals being slaughtered and illegally traded seems to have overlooked a couple of significant facts that Indias cattle herd outnumbers that of the US, Europe and China put together, and per capita beef consumption at less than 2 kg a year is the lowest in the world.

Moreover, meat export is one of the most tightly-controlled trades. There are just 53 registered meat abattoirs and 39 meat processing plants across the country that qualify to export consignments. Meat exports have almost doubled in rupee-terms over the past two years, up from Rs 14,000 crore in FY12 to over Rs 27,000 crore in FY14. And the biggest buyers are southeast Asian countries.

While India, as the minister pointed out, is the biggest beef exporter, having overtaken Brazil in 2012, what she did not mention is that India is home to the worlds largest cattle herd with 327 million head, followed by Brazil (197 million head), China (104m), the US (90.8m), the European Union (86.5m), Argentina (49.3m), Colombia (30.9m) and Australia (29.6m), according to the US Department of Agriculture data.

Also, Indias aversion to beef has translated into meagre 2.1 million tonnes consumption domestically a year compared with 11.5 million tonnes a year in the United States, which has just a quarter of Indias population. A 2012 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation report places India at the bottom of the list of 177 countries on meat consumption, with Luxembourg at the top consuming 136.5 kg per person per year.

Data from APEDA an autonomous body under the Department of Commerce reveals that bulk of exports is buffalo meat, debunking allegations of cattle (cow, calves and bulls) slaughter. Moreover, buffalo, goat and sheep meat exports are incentivised. In other words, this acts as a disincentive for exports of cow meat and, hence, there are no significant contraband meat consignments. The fiscal incentives include duty credit scripts equivalent to 5 per cent of FOB (free on board) value of exports. In the case of meat and meat products, this was made available from April 2008 to compensate for high transport costs.

What is interesting is that the surge in exports of meat products over the past three years is despite the financial assistance extended by APEDA to meat exporters coming down steadily during the time period: from Rs 20.48 crore (FY12) to Rs 18.86 crore (FY13) and then to Rs 14.61 crore last fiscal. According to APEDA estimates, of the 17.85 lakh tonnes of meat shipments from India in FY12, over 60 per cent (11.08 lakh tonnes) was meat from buffaloes.

Under the Centres Meat Export Policy, the export of beef meat of cow, ox and calf is prohibited and only buffalo that are not fit for milch and breeding purposes are allowed to be slaughtered for exports. Controls on the trade include the condition that each export consignment is accompanied by a certificate that the meat has been derived from buffaloes unfit for milching and breeding. Moreover, exporters are required to subject meat and meat products to anti-mortem and post-mortem examination. Meat exporters are also required to furnish a certificate to the Customs department that the consignment has been sourced from registered abattoirs or meat processing plants that source raw material from registered abattoirs.