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

Exports have been hit by several temporary meat plant closures in the current financial year that reduced production, said Priya Sud, a partner at Al Noor Exports. (AP)
Updated 04 February 2019
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India’s buffalo meat exports to plunge amid China clampdown on illegal imports

  • The vast majority of the beef India exports is buffalo, an animal less venerated than the indigenous Indian cow that many view as sacred

MUMBAI: India’s buffalo meat exports are set to plunge 15 percent to their lowest in six years, a leading industry body told Reuters, as world No.1 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 neighboring 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.
China’s General Administration of Customs did not respond to a fax seeking comment on the issue.
Shrinking shipments from the world’s No.2 exporter of buffalo meat are likely to drag on prices for the commodity, potentially good news for buyers in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and Iraq.
Alavi said that overall buffalo meat exports in the 2018/19 financial year that ends on March 31 could drop 15 percent from the year before to 1.15 million tons, the lowest since 2012/13. Two other exporters said shipments would likely fall more than 10 percent, without giving an exact number.
Exports in the period from last April to November declined 10 percent from the same time in 2017 to 825,570 tons, according to data from the nation’s Agriculture & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
In 2017/18 the country’s exports stood at 1.35 million tons, with Vietnam accounting for more than half the total.
The vast majority of the beef India exports is buffalo, an animal less venerated than the indigenous Indian cow that many view as sacred.
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.
“There are times when China puts restriction on cross-border trade and export moderates,” said Alavi.
The slowdown in exports has already pulled Indian buffalo meat prices to $2,900 per ton from $3,200 six months ago, exporters said.
“Many Indian states are free from foot-and-mouth disease and exports should be allowed to China from these states,” Alavi said.
“Chinese consumers are paying unnecessarily high prices. Direct trade would help both buyers and sellers.”

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The depreciation of the rupee to record lows against the US dollar helped exporters in the first-half of the 2018/19 fiscal year, allowing them to slash prices to better-compete with exporters in top buffalo meat supplier Brazil, said a New Delhi-based exporter.
“But in last few months, demand has moderated from China,” he added, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“Other buyers are comparatively small and can’t replace China.”
Exports have also been hit by several temporary meat plant closures in the current financial year that reduced production, said Priya Sud, a partner at Al Noor Exports, which operates abattoirs in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India.
Uttar Pradesh, the country’s biggest meat producer, ordered the closure of meat plants during religious festivals as the provincial government, led by a radical Hindu monk, drafted policies to protect cattle.


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.