Rosselkhoznadzor has sent an expert to India to assess the quality of buffalo meat, destined for export from India to Russia, according to information on the agency’s website.
He will oversee the preparation and shipment of buffalo meat to Russia, as well as become acquainted with the raw material base of the Indian companies that are planning to export this meat.
Deliveries of buffalo meat from India to Russia were approved during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi in mid-December 2014.
Four Indian companies were given the right to export buffalo meat to the Russian Federation –N68 Fair Exports Pvt. Ltd, N121 Frigerio Conserva Allana Limited, N23 Frigorifico Allana Limited, and N42 Amroon Foods Pvt. Ltd.
In a new initiative, Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor plans to allow meat imports from India and South Korea.
"Rosselkhoznadzor is ready to explore the possibility of safe pork supply from other countries in south-east Asia, particularly South Korea, and India," said a statement from the veterinary body.
Sergei Dankvert, head of the department, confirmed: "The veterinary watchdog is considering opening up pork imports from India and South Korea." However, he did not specify the level of supply that could be provided by these two countries.
Supplies of pork from South Korea to Russia were restricted from 11 February 2010, in response to an outbreak of food-and-mouth-disease in the country. Meanwhile, Indian companies have never supplied pork to Russia, according to official information from Rosselkhoznadzor.
Russia has already allowed imports of buffalo meat from India, while imports of pork and other meat products will be adopted in two steps. The first one will take place from 5 November, when Rosselkhoznadzor will approve a primary list of meat supplies from that country. For the second step – which should take place in mid-December – this list to be expanded.
Experts note, that Rosselkhoznadzor’s new strategy, developed in response to a shortage of meat on the Russian market, provides that the demand on the domestic meat market should be diversified and partly covered by exotic meats, such as kangaroo, crocodile, buffalo meat and so on.
"So far Rosselkhoznadzor has certified four Indian businesses, which now have the right to supply buffalo meat to Russia. The veterinary service will continue the certification of companies, and soon we will come to producers of poultry, egg powder and dairy goods," said Alexei Likhachev, Russian deputy economic development minister.
Following the embargo on meat imports from the European Union and the US, the situation for meat in the domestic market is getting worse. A continuing rise in prices in the long term could mean that the least wealthy consumers will have to stop buying meat, experts predict.
In a bid to overcome the rise in prices, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has launched unscheduled inspections of all the meat unions and associations in Russia, suspecting them of being in a cartel agreement. Representatives of the associations themselves called this initiative nonsense.
"We cannot be a cartel," said Yuri Kovalev, president of the Union of Pig Producers. "We do not work with retailers – we only sell live pigs and half-carcases to meat-packing plants."
President of the National Meat Association Sergey Yushin said the Antimonopoly Service had also contacted the association on the issue. "They may suspect that the association has provoked an increase or decrease in prices. But the meat market is always naturally volatile," he added.
Previously, the FAS has penalised a number of meat producers in the country, blaming them for an unreasonable increase in meat prices. However, experts doubt that such measures can really stop prices from rising further.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) has emerged as the biggest exporter of buffalo meat from the country with Punjab and Maharashtra trending behind. Apart from having the country's largest buffalo population it also has the highest number of abattoirs-cummeat processing export units.
A recent FICCI report on the Indian buffalo meat value chain brings out these findings. India is the world's largest exporter of buffalo meat and accounts for 58% of world buffalo population. Buffalo contributes about 30% of total meat production here.
"UP ranks third in meat production and of all states is the biggest exporter of buffalo meat. Of total Indian carabeef exports, 67% originates from the state," says the FICCI report. The state has a large livestock population, representing 10% of the cattle and over 25% of the buffalos in India.
In Uttar Pradesh, there were 317 registered slaughterhouses and, in addition to this, there were 24 export-oriented units for buffalo meat. Buffalo meat production in the state has been increasing gradually since 2007-08 but since 2010 it increased by 40%.
The buffalo meat produced in 2011-12 was 4,08,000 tonne, up 36% from the 2010-11 output of 3,00,000 tonne. "Since the business of buffalo meat processing is well established and accepted in the state, many operational units are procuring buffalo not only from UP but also from Bihar, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab," said Ficci.
Hind Agro Industries, Al Noor Exports, Al Nafees Frozen Food Exports, Frigerico Conserva Allana, Rustam Foods, Rayban Foods Private were some of the major exporters from UP. "The state has 645 cattle markets, which ensure that there is a steady supply of the raw material," said an exporter. Another leading exporter with a pan-India presence said that the next slew of investments by his company would be in UP.
"We are looking to open 5-6 more units over the next 5-10 years in the state. The state machinery is supportive to the industry. Water, labour, infrastructure and various programmes on buffalo breeding,veterinary and disease control are far efficient than other states," he said. The scenario in Punjab is quite the opposite.
India is still on track to become the world's biggest bovine meat exporter in 2013-2014, according to Business Monitor International.
BMI said that US Department of Agriculture data revealed that Indian production of buffalo meat had grown 9.8% in 2012-13, and was forecast to grow by a further 4% in 2013-14 to 4 million tonnes cwe.
It added that the introduction of the Salvaging and Rearing Male Buffalo Calves (SRtvlBC) law and Utilization of Fallen Animals scheme (UFA) had helped promote the rearing of buffalo bull calves for meat production, and assisted the sector in moving towards its meat sector growth rate target of 10%.
India will continue to be the leading beef exporter this year despite slower growth in cattle, calf production and higher domestic consumption.
In the Indian context, beef export is shipment of buffalo meat which is also known as carabeef in the global market. Shipment of cow meat from the country is banned.
Last year, India overtook Brazil as the top exporter of beef, mainly due to growing acceptance of its buffalo meat by South-East Asia, West Asia and African countries.
Buffalo meat exports this year from India could rise to 1.7 million tonnes (mt) against 1.41 mt last year.
Initially, the USDA has estimated that beef exports this year could top 2.1 mt.
“Our buffalo meat exports are giving a tough competition to other countries due to our competitive pricing and quality,” said Tarun Bajaj, General Manager (Livestock products), Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (Apeda).
Buffalo makes up one-third of the bovine population in the country.
It is preferred to cow due to its adaptability to climatic conditions and high milk fat content as dairy production is fuelling the bovine sector.
Since slaughter of cow is banned, beef production is driven by buffalo slaughter which is allowed.
However, the slaughter is restricted to males and unproductive females.
According to Apeda, exports of meat and its products increased to $3.29 billion in 2012-13 against $2.91 billion the previous year.
Since 2008, when India exported 672,000 tonnes, shipments of buffalo meat have almost trebled.
Indian exports have made inroads into West Asia, North Africa and South-East Asia, a key market for Brazil, as buffalo meat is cheaper in these price-sensitive markets.
It is produced according to halal standards (meat prepared as prescribed by Islamic law).
Brazil has been witnessing a constant decline in beef exports due to shrinking land availability, but this year its shipments are expected to rise to 1.6 mt from 1.52 mt last year.
Currently, there is renewed interest in livestock farming as the Brazil Government is providing support for pasture management and genetic improvement of cattle.
“The other reason for our exports rising is our quality. Some of our exporters have excellent processing units. This is really helping,” said Bajaj.
On the other hand, domestic consumption is also likely to increase this year. It could increase to 2.1 mt from 2.04 mt last year. Since 2008, domestic consumption has not gained as much as exports.
This is because people are shifting to lamb and other meats in view of increasing income in the country. Poultry meat, in particular, has increased sharply in the last few years.
According to the USDA, cattle heads could increase by four million tonnes to 327 mt, while nearly 64.3 mt calf could be produced this year against 63.4 mt last year.
The USDA also projected a lower export of 8.6 mt this year.
In a move which could see an increase in export of buffalo meat and fishery products to China, the two countries on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding here on Monday, which aims to help meet the regulatory requirements for such exports with respect to safety, hygiene and quarantine.
The agreement was one of the eight signed at the conclusion of delegation-level talks between visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In a bid to enhance people-to-people contact, India and China also signed an agreement to facilitate co-operation and linkages between cities and States/provinces.
The two sides also agreed to conduct the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra every year between May and September with the Chinese side saying that they would make further improvements to the existing facilities for pilgrims.
Besides, in a move that is likely to facilitate smooth communications, China has agreed to assist India in renting wireless sets and local SIM cards for those going on the pilgrimage.