The livestock sector in India is one of its most important aspects of agriculture income. The value of fisheries and livestock reached $31 billion as early as 1999. With over 304 million head of cattle and water buffalo counted as part of the sector, the Indian beef industry provides a strong economic presence in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
That is despite the challenges which are faced by this industry every day. Many people regard cattle as being an essential component of their religious and spiritual beliefs. In most of the Indian states, it is against the law to slaughter cows for any reason. Their meat is even considered taboo. Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism all treat cattle as being sacred.
That means the Indian beef industry relies on West Bengal, Kerala, and portions of the northeast to provide critical agricultural revenues.
Interesting Indian Beef Industry Statistics
#1. The average annual milk yield for cattle in India is just under 1,200kg, which makes it about 50% of the global average. (Civilsdaily)
#2. About 6% of the cattle supported by the Indian beef industry are covered by insurance. Only 5% of households which are involved in the sector have access to information about modern livestock technologies. (Civilsdaily)
#3. Grazing lands for the industry have been reducing in quality and quantity over the years. Only 5% of croplands in India are used to provide food for cattle and livestock. The country is 35% deficient in the availability of green fodder, 28% deficient in concentrates, and 11% deficient in dry fodder. (Civilsdaily)
#4. Livestock in India receives about 12% of the total public expenditure, which is disproportionately less than its contribution to the GDP. (Civilsdaily)
#5. About half of the meat production in India comes from slaughterhouses which are makeshift facilities which are unregistered. Farmers lose up to 20% of their revenues when they are forced to use such facilities. (Civilsdaily)
#6. Total beef production (combined with buffalo meat) reached 4.25 million tons cwt in 2017, with an increase of 1.2% expected for the 2018 farm year. (Meat and Livestock Australia)
#7. Water buffalos account for 45% of the dairy herd in India, which means the growth of buffalo meat within the sector is being driven by an expansion of the dairy industry. Buffalo meat is permitted to eat domestically, making it the second-most popular food item behind chicken. (Meat and Livestock Australia)
#8. 40% of the total production of beef and buffalo products which are sent to the export market go to either the Middle East or Southeast Asia. Over 98% of the shipments exported from the industry are frozen.
#9. India is the top exporter of beef products in the world today because of its overall price competitiveness. In 2016, the price per kg was just under $3.00, compared to more than $6.00 in the United States and Australia. (Meat and Livestock Australia)
#10. Most cattle owners (and buffalo owners) who are part of the Indian industry are classified as subsistence farmers. They have little land, with most cattle raised on a space between 0.5 and 1 acre. The average owner has two cattle or buffalo. (India Ministry of Commerce and Industry)
#11. India currently accounts for 20% of the global beef trade thanks to its heavy inclusion of water buffalo products. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#12. 20 of the 29 states in India currently have regulations in place which either prohibit the slaughter of cows or their sale. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#13. Buffalo was the top export for India in 2015, creating $4.8 billion in revenues. That was $300 million more than Basmati rice, creating record earning which have grown some years by more than 30%. (CNN)
#14. 40% of the buffalo meat that goes to the export market makes its way to Vietnam. Much of that meat eventually goes to China, though trade statistics on the secondary export are not kept. (CNN)
#15. Since 2009, the disposable income levels in India have surged by 95%, which has caused domestic meat consumption to double. (CNN)
#16. From 2007 to 2012, the number of bulls counted in the Indian cattle herd decreased by 19%, with total cattle populations only now starting to rise once again. (Quartz)
#17. India is also the fifth-largest country in terms of beef consumption, with Muslims the primary consumers. About 1 in 13 Indians say that they eat either beef or buffalo meat. (Quartz)
#18. Since 2011, domestic consumption of veal and beef products in India has been above 2 million tons per year. (Quartz)
#19. 40% of the Muslim population of India says that they consume beef products. 26% of Christians in the country report eating the red meat, while even 2% of Hindus report that they eat it. (Quartz)
#20. The Indian cattle industry currently employs about 2.2 million people in some capacity. (India Today)
Indian Beef Industry Trends and Analysis
What holds the Indian beef industry back from being a major provider of products on the global stage is its issue with disease. Limited technological access makes it difficult for some countries to import beef products. Issues like foot and mouth disease are still present within the food chain. When that issue is combined with the overall lack of oversight provided over the slaughtering facilities, several high-wealth nations have concerns over the quality of the meat.
To alleviate those issues, India has opened 250 disease diagnostic laboratories to help ensure the quality of the food it provides. 32 of these facilities exist at the State level. There are also 26 veterinary biological units used to care for the livestock, along with a network of well-established veterinary services.
All animals are processed officially by Halak System under religious tenents and directly supervised at the State level. Most meat exporting plants have received ISO certification.
In time, the Indian beef industry will continue to reduce the gap between its capabilities and expectations. Until then, it will continue to be a regional supplier of food products.
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