The prospects of buffalo meat exports increasing significantly in the Ramzan period —starting next month — have dimmed somewhat with the Uttar Pradesh government understood to have closed down several illegal abattoirs. According to an official with the department of animal husbandry, only those abattoirs that had violated safety and environmental norms have been asked to close. “We have asked buffalo meat export-processing units to follow stringent norms for ensuring that quality products are shipped from these units,” the official said. According to industry associations, exporters could potentially lose an estimated Rs 2,000 crore during Ramzan — starting in late May and end on June 25. UP accounts for more than 50% of the country’s exports of buffalo meat.
Exporters were hoping to cash in on the lower supplies from Brazil, the world’s biggest beef exporter, which have dropped following alleged contamination of the meat. Several countries including China and South Korea are believed to have imposed a temporary ban on beef imports from Brazil.
However, the closure of the abattoirs in UP would mean smaller quantums of buffalo meat available for export. Between April 2016 and February 2017, the country earned Rs 23,645 crore from exports of buffalo meat; in 2015-16, the total value of exports was Rs 26,681 crore.
Afzal Latif, president, All India Meat and Livestocks Exporters Association (AIMLEA), said the processing of buffalo meat in Uttar Pradesh had slowed down in March and as also the first week of April.
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Latif estimated the total likely loss to exporters in March and April at around Rs 6,000 crore.
Many of the processing units in Uttar Pradesh are running below capacity, he said, due to a shortage of animals. The state has 41 meat processing units, of which nine — all export-oriented — have been closed down.
There are 75 buffalo meat-processing units approved by commerce ministry designated for exports located mostly in UP, Maharashtra and Telangana.
Typically, demand for meat rises during the Ramzan period from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath has reassured exporters that abattoirs with valid licences would not be closed down.
Latif told FE he was hopeful all the processing units would be opened shortly. “The state government must ensure the movement of buffaloes, especially from neighbouring states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, is not disrupted by vigilante groups who often stop trucks carrying animals,” he said.
In 2014-15, buffalo meat became the largest item in the agri-export basket, surpassing basmati rice exports for the first time. In 2015-16, buffalo exports amounted to `26, 681 crore against the shipment of Rs 22,714 crore worth of basmati rice.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt, Thailand and Saudi Arabia are the top five export destination for India’s buffalo meat. However, a major chunk of the shipments, to the tune Rs 13,125 crore, was made to Vietnam in FY16.
Trade sources said most of the meat consignments to Vietnam eventually go to China, which officially does not import buffalo meat from India. Officials said concerted efforts to eliminate diseases such as rinderpest and foot-and- mouth disease among buffalo population have borne fruit, resulting in a sharp increase in exports of meat products from India in the last many of years.
Currently, there are around 75 mechanised abattoirs and processing plants set up by the private sector, mostly located in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, etc, and these plants follow all sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements of the World Organisation for Animal Health.