Meat industry is stagnating while poultry is fast growing

Meat industry is stagnating while poultry is fast growing

Rajat K. Baisya

stagnatingTHE major component of the meat industry in India is buffalo meat. India has a population of about 80 million buffaloes which is over 50% of the world population of buffaloes. Out of this about 9 million buffaloes which is about 11 % of the total population are slaughtered annually in organized slaughterhouses. And buffalo constitutes 90 % of our total meat export. Sheep and goat constitute only 10-15% of our export of meat. The price realization of fresh and frozen buffalo meat is almost same. It is about INR 35 per kg. Processed buffalo meat and meat products can fetch much higher price but the value added meat products are not exported in reasonable quantity. In real terms, meat export is declining primarily because of the fact that our meat is not still accepted in Europe and America. As such most of our export of fresh and frozen buffalo meat goes to Middle East countries. Everyday from Mumbai airport there are consignments of buffalo meat going to Arab world by air. No one has made any attempt to look at the basic issues that industry is facing. Even our Ministry of Food Processing Industry has not made any comprehensive policy and support announcement for this sector. No new investment has happened in meat processing. Only the old processors like Allanas, Al Kabeer and Hind Agro are having backward linkages. Their plants and facilities are certified by the importing and other certifying agencies.

We don’t see any private sector initiatives in this category of industry. The right policies, adequate infrastructural framework and political will are necessary to make this happen. Besides, there are other issues like in India only non-productive and non- milking buffaloes are allowed to be slaughtered. The meat quality and yield of meat from that aged cattle are, therefore, not that remunerative in the world market where demand is for tender meat that fetches much better price. In the international trade demand is for lean hygienic meat. To grow in international trade we need to follow modern feeding and animal rearing programme. As per the regulatory practices, in the slaughterhouse in India goat and lamb will be certified as healthy cattle whereas buffalo will be certified as useless by the veterinary surgeon before slaughtering. Another big issue is Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). For that reason alone our meat is not accepted in Europe and USA where meat from Australia and New Zealand are doing much better business. Department of Animal Husbandry under the Union Ministry of Agriculture, has identified three special zones which are declared as FMD free zones and the buffalo meat processing plants are located in those zones. First of all, these FMD free zones are to be extended to cover a much wider areas and secondly, importing countries should be invited to go through the inspection to officially accept these zones and process plants as meeting the standards of import as per the guidelines of Codex Alimentarious Commission which is particularly necessary for European and American buyers not only to get better price for our meat but even our meat to be accepted.

During 1990s buffalo meat was the largest type of animal meat that was consumed in India. Almost 50% of the total meat consumed was from buffalo meat and poultry meat was to the extent of only 15-16%. The scenario has now changed and buffalo meat constitutes about 37% of the total meat consumption whereas poultry meat consumption has gone up to about 40%. The estimated production of poultry and poultry products is said to be around 1600 thousand tonnes which was about 500 thousand tonnes in 1991 registering a growth rate of about 11% per annum whereas buffalo meat has grown only to the extent of about 5% during this period. As per the report of USDA the total production of buffalo meat is about 1.9 million tonnes About 20% of this production is exported to countries like Philippines, Malaysia, Egypt and Middle east countries. Mutton and lamb segment is relatively small and demand is always higher than supply resulting in high price in domestic market. Per capita consumption of poultry meat has gone up from about 420 gms in 1991 to 1.5 kg in 2003 and if we exclude the vegetarian population, the per capita consumption of poultry meat will work out to about 1.75 kgs per annum now.

Although poultry consumption is on the rise the meat and mutton consumption is very slowly growing or almost stagnant. This is the scenario in domestic trade whereas in export trade performance of poultry is very poor. Out of 500000 MT of meat that we export almost 90% is buffalo meat. The total processing capacity in the country is about one million tonnes but the capacity utilization is hardly 50%. The slaughterhouses are in the control of local municipal corporations. Deonar slaughterhouse in Mumbai is said to be modern and the largest in Asia. These local slaughterhouses are used by meat traders for selling meat in the local market as well as for export. Hind Agro is the only player in the market who have backward linkages with modern male buffalo rearing facility.

Poultry production is concentrated in west and south. Most of the poultry farms in west are located in and around Pune and in south those are located around Coimbatore. In north and east there is no concentration of processing zones for poultry. In West Bengal a large poultry processing facility exists in Arambag. This particular brand of poultry meat has in course of time became quite popular in the region.

The biggest single effort in the private sector for processing and farming of poultry meat has been initiated by Venkateshwara Hatcheries near Pune. They have modern plant and also successfully exporting to countries like Japan which is a very quality conscious market. As per the report, for catering to the Japan market for poultry and poultry products they have installed a special plant. Unlike buffalo meat, poultry processing plants have achieved a fair degree of integration and therefore can hold the price line in the market and have been able to operate their own cold chain for effective distribution.

The meat and poultry processing industry has significant scope for development and there is large potential for export. But the industry suffers from many constraints which are both socio-cultural, religious and political as well as technological in nature. The scenario however, can change in future with the entry of the large organized retail stores like Wal-Mart and Tesco. Hopefully, establishing cold chain and integrated meat processing plants with introduction of variety of products sold through refrigerated storage in the retail shelf will improve the scenario further. A holistic approach involving processors, Government departments, slaughterhouses and private organized retailing collectively can improve the performance of this potential sector.

 

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

 

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