India Overtakes Brazil to Become the World’s Largest Beef Exporter in 2023
Riding on Water Buffaloes to Beef Export Dominance
With annual buffalo meat exports exceeding 2.5 million tons, India has dethroned Brazil to become the world’s number one beef exporting country. India’s emergence as the top beef exporter caps its swift rise in meat production and highlights the country’s booming agri-exports.
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Several interplaying factors have powered India’s burgeoning beef industry and exports:
Massive Buffalo Population Fuels India’s Beef Dominance
India wields a huge advantage with the world’s largest buffalo herd at over 200 million heads. Buffaloes are reared primarily for milk, but male calves and culled dairy buffaloes provide the raw material for low-cost meat production. Buffalo meat constitutes 86% of India’s beef exports. Their higher carcass yields and affordability have driven the surge in buffalo meat exports.
Expanding Production Infrastructure
To harness its abundant buffalo resources, India has invested heavily in beef production and processing infrastructure. Slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities have expanded enormously, especially in the major buffalo meat producing states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Cold chain transport connectivity has also improved to support fresh meat exports.
Targeting Lucrative Export Markets
Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt and Indonesia account for over 60% of India’s buffalo meat exports. These markets demand affordable halal meat products, which India’s buffalo meat industry has competitively catered to. Meat export promotion programs have also raised India’s profile in lucrative Middle Eastern and ASEAN markets.
Government Nudges and Incentives
The Indian government has provided various incentives, subsidies and permissions to boost meat exports. Buffalo meat production and exports thrive on government support. Concessional loans for setting up slaughterhouses, subsidies on cold storages and marketing assistance have catalyzed meat export growth.
Brazil’s Declining Cost Competitiveness
From being the top beef exporter for over a decade, Brazil has slipped behind India. Reduced cattle inventory from droughts and higher beef costs have eroded Brazil’s export competitiveness. In contrast, India’s buffalo meat exports have risen steadily on the back of low costs and surging production.
India Expected to Widen Lead in Beef Exports
Industry estimates project India’s buffalo meat exports to cross 3 million tons by 2025. With expansive buffalo resources, growing export infrastructure and supportive policies, India is likely to cement its top position as the world’s major beef supplier. However, Brazil and other beef exporters may bounce back, forcing India to keep sharpening its competitive edge.
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Beef Export Demand Surges Over Past Decade
Global demand for beef has risen steadily over the past decade, fueling increase in beef trade worldwide. According to UN trade data, total global beef exports have grown by over 28% from 2012 to 2021. The value of global beef exports expanded from $31.8 billion in 2012 to $48.9 billion in 2021. Developing economies like China and Philippines has driven growth in beef imports. Their rising incomes and changing food habits has lifted demand for beef.
India’s Buffalo Meat Exports Soar to Record Levels
Riding on buoyant global demand, India’s buffalo meat exports has surged to record levels. Data from India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) shows buffalo meat exports rising from 1.28 million tons in 2012 to close to 2.5 million tons in 2022 – a growth of over 90%. In value terms, exports have jumped from $3.17 billion to $4.78 billion. Vietnam, Malaysia and Egypt remains major export destination. Demand from these markets and expansion in production capacity has boost India’s buffalo meat exports.
Brazil’s Beef Exports Decline Due to Domestic Challenges
After dominating global beef trade for years, Brazil’s beef exports has stagnated in recent times. Statistics from Brazil’s Beef Exporters Association reveals that beef exports peaked at 1.85 million tons in 2018 before falling to 1.56 million tons in 2021. Reduced cattle inventory from droughts, higher production costs and logistic challenges has impacted Brazil’s beef exports. In contrast, India gained competitiveness to become the top beef exporter. Reclaiming global leadership in beef trade remains an uphill task for Brazil.
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