“The Chinese buyers visit our plant, finalise deals and ask for deliveries in Vietnam, where they have sister concerns,” said Anupam Sharma, export advisor at Al Faheem Meatex Pvt in Meerut (Uttar Pradesh). “Ninety-nine per cent of the [buffalo meat] exports to Vietnam are in fact for Chinese markets.”
According to India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), from April to October 2013, Indian buffalo meat exports to Vietnam rose to 248,000 tonnes (t) compared with 123,000t during the same period in the previous year. The value of these exports rose from US$291m to US$867m.
In May 2013, India and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which would allow the direct export of buffalo meat to China from India, but legal texts have yet to be finally approved and made binding. According to a senior official at APEDA, “both countries agree on this issue but certain protocol has to be followed and discussions are continuing”.
Traders are anticipating an early breakthrough, however: “We hope it will be done in next two to three months,” Rizwan Shaikh, manager of Al Shirin Exports in Mumbai told globalmeatnews.com.
According to Shaikh, once direct trade is permitted with China, exports will rise even further, although he would not predict the level of increase. “Indian buffalo meat is cost-competitive and of better quality than that of Australia and Brazil because it comes from natural animals and no breeding costs are involved,” he said.
The Indian government estimated there were 105 million buffalo in India in 2007, so the country has the capacity to fulfil the international appetite for buffalo meat. “Though animal prices have gone up locally, there is enough supply,” said Shaikh.
A sharp rise in international demand for Indian buffalo meat in the last few years has being credited to a July 2011 order by the central government that made it mandatory for exporters to have in-house quality-controlled abattoirs. “Though it brought down the number of eligible exporters from 200 to 34, the quality increased,” said Sharma.