India’s buffalo meat exports to plunge amid China clampdown on illegal imports

India’s buffalo meat exports are set to plunge 15 per cent to their lowest in six years, a leading industry body told Reuters, as world’s top meat consumer China clamps down on food smuggling.

China does not allow imports of Indian buffalo beef due to fears over foot-and-mouth disease, but the meat is often smuggled into the country through neighbouring nations along with other foods that have also been prohibited by Beijing.

The Chinese government has periodically ramped up customs controls over the last few years as it cracks down on these so-called ‘grey trade’ networks.

That has hit demand for Indian buffalo meat in places such as Vietnam, where some traders look to resell to clients in China, according to the All India Meat & Livestock Exporters Association. “Chinese buying has been very erratic in the last couple of months and that is being reflected in export numbers,” said Fauzan Alavi, vice president at the organization to Reuters.

Buffalo meat exports in the 2018/19 financial year that ends on March 31 could drop by 15 per cent from the year before to 1.15 million tonnes, the lowest since 2012/13.

Exports in the period from last April to November declined 10 percent from the same time in 2017 to 825,570 tonnes, according to data from India’s Agriculture & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.

The vast majority of the beef India exports is buffalo. India’s buffaloes are mainly used for dairy and are only slaughtered for meat after their milk productivity has peaked. That makes the meat produced lower quality than from beef cattle, and is mainly used in processed food, canned goods and low-end dishes. Total Indian buffalo meat exports are around $4 billion a year.

The slowdown in exports has already pulled Indian buffalo meat prices to $2,900 per tonne from $3,200 six months ago, exporters said.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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