The Indian government announced in May a ban on trading of cattle at animal markets for the purpose of slaughtering them. Cow is considered a sacred animal by Hindus who constitute about 80% of India’s population. India has a cattle population of about 190 million, and a further 108 million buffaloes. Mostly reared by small and marginal farmers for their milk, these bovines earn a good amount even after they can no longer produce milk, given the demand for meat and animal products.
Although the sale of cows and their cattle was already banned in many states, the pro-Hindu central government went one step ahead and also imposed a ban on the sale of aged cattle and buffaloes in a bid to prevent animal cruelty. They also imposed strict documentation requirements for any sale and purchase of bovines at local markets across the nations. The announcement of the ban triggered state-level protests and “beef fests” and stirred a cause for concern amongst small-scale cattle owners and meat exporters in India.
While the rule is still being challenged by many states in court specially beef consuming ones such as West Bengal, Meghalaya and Nagaland, analysts are already predicting tighter supplies. One of the world’s largest beef exporter by volume, India roughly exports
beef worth US$4 billion annually, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Second to Brazil and slightly ahead of Australia in beef
exports, India alone consumes about two million tonnes of buffalo meat, while an equal amount is sold internationally, said industry consultant Ross Ainsworth in an interview.
Indian exports contribute to about 20% of the beef consumption in the world, and Vietnam and China
are some of its largest importers. The recent ban will not only affect the supply of beef in the market but given Brazil’s tainted meat scandal, will also compel many nations to look elsewhere for their beef supply. In the wake of this crisis, Australia may seize the opportunity to fill the gap.