Opportunities and Challenges of Indian Meat Industry

Rajat K. Baisya

India has the major share of global livestock population comprising of 185.5 million cattle, 97 million buffaloes, 62 million sheep, 120 million goats, 14 million pigs and 425 million poultry as per the Live Animal Database of FAO 2004. Another statistics put us on the top of the world as far as livestock population is concerned.

Livestock sector serves as the exclusive source of animal protein. It provides employment to over 300 million of rural people and contributes enormous amount of draught power and biomass that enriches the agricultural field of our country. The importance of livestock in the economy is thus enormous and cannot be underestimated. This sector thus plays a crucial role in national economy especially in rural sector for landless and women. Annual contribution of livestock, animal husbandry and fishery sector is Rs 1700 billion. Contribution of livestock sector to national GDP is about 7.35 %. Animal protein consumption in our country is only about 10 gms per capita per day as against the world average of 25 gms/day per head. However, it has been estimated that share of the developing countries in the total world meat consumption will increase to about 60 % by the year 2020.The livestock presently slaughtered in India include 1.95 million cattle, 10.6 million buffaloes, 17.7 million sheep, 40.5 million goats and 4.2 million pigs per annum. Per capita consumption of meat is highest in Kerala. Over 95% of Keralites are meat consumers having no taboos or sentiments regarding the type of meat they consume. The high literacy rate (100%), improved socio economic status and increased awareness about the nutritional requirements for healthy life are some of the reasons of high meat consumption in Kerala among all Indian states. About 1.5 million cattle are slaughtered in Kerala alone. Kerala thus provides a good opportunity for the growth of the meat industry.

Major market for Indian buffalo meat is Malaysia and Egypt. Sheep and goat meat mainly goes to UAE, Iran and Jordan. India also exports small quantity of processed meat and that goes to the market like Thailand, Yemen, and Japan  whereas for poultry products market is mainly in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. It can be pointed out here that our meat is sold largely as fresh and frozen and not much as value added processed products. Also market is concentrated mainly in Middle East and south East Asian countries. Developed western world do not buy meat from India although potential is very large. Indian meat has an advantage of the fact that it is low fat and low cholesterol, which is a fear with most of the red meat. This is because livestock in India are reared on green pastures and agricultural crop residues. As is done in developed world, meat cum bone meal, blood meal and carcass meal are not fed to cattle and buffaloes here. Also hormones, antibodies and antibiotics are not generally used for promoting growth and fattening of livestock. This sector therefore, has great opportunities.

However, we also are sitting with huge magnitude of problems including unhygienic production of meat, contamination, poor infrastructure of abattoirs, unscientific processing, absence of cold chain, poor packaging and near absence of meat safety management systems. The demand is for safe and wholesome meat. We have a problem of foot and mouth disease and we also have mastitis. The mastitis is economically most devastating disease in India next to FMD. Affected quarters show 30% less productivity. Prevention and control of both FMD and mastitis is warranted in post WTO regime for export of good quality meat. The absence of mad cow disease (Bovine spongeiform encephalopathy) among our cattle and buffaloes is a very favouable condition for promoting export of buffalo meat to other countries in the wake of reports of occasional outbreak of the disease among European cattle.

Absence of meat inspection by qualified veterinarians is yet another factor that cause concern regarding the safety of meat that is sold in the Indian market. In many cases diseased animals are slaughtered and the meat derived from such animals is sold in the market. The increased incidence of zoonotic diseases and its impact on the health of the consumers are of major concern for the public health authorities. Importing countries, however, always insist on veterinary meat inspection and certification.

Starting from obtaining permission or license from the local panchayat or municipality or corporation one requires 12 different kinds of licenses to set up a meat processing plant. Under new food safety regulations authority it should be one window clearance but who knows what is the reality. But it is essential to streamline and simplify the licensing procedures. Assistance provided by central government ministries comprise of assistance for establishing modern abattoirs, meat processing plants, cold storage, refrigerated vehicles and laboratory equipments.

In spite of several bottlenecks we still have a few model factories for cattle slaughtering and meat processing. Allanas in Maharastra and Hind Group in north have definitely demonstrated success. Their factories are approved and ISO certified. Although these few model factories meet the required hygiene standard as well as HACCP and ISI accreditations but they have not yet started marketing to Europe and US. In poultry processing things are much better and we have been now exporting to countries like Japan. The initiative of Venkateshwara Hatcheries is a landmark in the poultry-processing sector. Godrej group has also entered into this sector. Godrej has created the infrastructure to market poultry products in most of the western and southern cities. But such initiative in cattle meat is almost absent. The evolution of modern format retail outlets will hopefully address these issues. Recently Govt. of India has finalized formation of National Meat and Poultry Processing Board (NMPPB) with headquarter in New Delhi. This is a not-for-profit company under companies Act 1956. It is said that NMPPB will address the issues related to production of hygienic, safe and wholesome meat and meat products resulting in higher value addition, harmonization of domestic standards and capacity building for the sector to take care of address the Human Resource Development issues. It is also expected that NMPPB will develop uniform and effective meat quality testing systems in the country, address the environmental pollution issues arising out of the present conditions in the meat industry and provide thrust on research and development for production and marketing of innovative and new value added meat products for domestic and international markets. It will also serve as a single window service for producers and manufacturers and exporters of meat and meat products, promote and regulate the meat industry for increasing exports and help industry for establishing self-sustainable and viable projects.

The notification further said that NMPPB will also help industry to utilize slaughter house waste materials, set up quality control laboratories for meat and meat products, promote meat manufacturers to adopt GMP, HACCP, ISO-9001 standards, help industry to create data and its dissemination, train workers, technicians in meat processing industry and work as a central and national hub to address meat related issues.

As one can see NMPPB is the solution for the elimination of all ills and promotion for growth of Indian meat processing industry. Everything has been put under its ambit. We can only look forward for things to happen. Govt. has taken the first step in recognizing the problems and opportunities for meat processing industry. Let us now see what happens.

-- This article was first published in "Processed Food Industry" monthly magazine.




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