IT largely flies below the radar, but at 304 million head India has the largest bovine population in the world.
Despite the large number of challenges faced by the beef/buffalo meat industry in India, it remains a key exporter alongside Brazil, Australia and the US with a strong presence in South-East Asia and the Middle East regions.
India remains dogged by foot and mouth disease, effectively locking Indian product out of Australia’s high value markets including Japan, the US, Korea and the European Union.
However, India is also growing its presence in the Middle East and competition is likely to increase in some Australia’s exports markets, such as UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The entry of Indian buffalo meat into the Indonesian market in mid-2016, combined with high Australian cattle prices and the Indonesian government policies to achieve self-sufficiency, had significant impact on Australian live cattle and beef box shipments in 2017.
Indian product is recognised as being very price competitive on the global stage, being the largest and most affordable supplier of frozen commodity beef, which is supporting its growth in price sensitive markets.
According to Meat and Livestock Australia the cattle/water buffalo herd size, as well as production, is on the increase. This is mainly driven by the domestic growth in the dairy sector as private investment and government support increases.
India’s beef and buffalo meat production is expected to reach 4.25 million tonnes carton weight in 2017 and increase by 1.2 per cent in 2018, to 4.3mt.
MLA international markets general manager Michael Finucan said the bovine industry continued to develop.
“India’s meat sector mainly depends on slaughter of unproductive water buffalo cows and bulls from the dairy sector,” Mr Finucan said. “As water buffalos account for around 45pc of the dairy herd in India, the growth in Indian buffalo meat production is largely driven by the expanding dairy industry.”
The primary export markets for Indian buffalo meat are Vietnam, Malaysia and Egypt.