India’s buffalo meat (carabeef) production and exports are set to increase in 2024, the New Delhi Post of the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service has said. 

In its report for the 2024 market year (January-December), the Post estimated buffalo meat consumption at 2.97 million tonnes (mt) in 2024 against 2.92 mt in 2023. “Indians are growing increasingly fond of consuming meat and processed meat products. The greatest receptivity for carabeef comes from more youthful consumers who are better inclined to changing dietary preferences and are more nutrition conscious,” it said. 

Carabeef remains the most affordable and nutrition-filled red meat available today in India, it said. In addition, accelerating disposable income, fast-paced urbanisation, easy availability with growing outreach of supermarkets, hypermarkets, and online retail sale, and growing awareness of international cuisines are stimulating higher consumption, the USDA’s Post said.

Critical variable

Domestically, besides taste and preferences, price continues to be a critical variable for buffalo meat demand. The Post said in 2023, the price indexes of various types of meat in India have fluctuated due to supply-side factors.

With the exception of inland fish, all other livestock products have closed at higher prices in November 2023 than at the beginning of the year. Based on average price indexes of 2023, except for poultry (chicken), prices for all meat types increased in 2023, it said.

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Stating that Indian carabeef exports are gaining momentum, the Post said the Indian buffalo meat is “cost competitive with other red meats” and is perceived as being more natural.

Indian government statistics indicate that carabeef and carabeef products exports make up almost 79 per cent of the total animal products exports from India in 2022-2023 (April-March). India’s 2024 buffalo meat exports have been pegged at 1.64 mt, up over five per cent from 1.55 mt in 2023.

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 “Post’s trade sources comment that besides the usual trend to export to established international markets, 2023 witnessed a greater than anticipated rise in carabeef and carabeef product exports to Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE, Jordan, Oman, Philippines, Hong Kong (SAR), Uzbekistan, and Singapore,” it said.

According to data from the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), buffalo meat exports during the April-January period of the current fiscal were 1.08 mt valued at $3.07 billion compared with 0.97 mt valued at $2.63 billion. 

The FAS’ Post said lower pricing makes Indian-origin carabeef price competitive, especially in the middle to low-income countries. “While the average export price/kg of Indian carabeef is $2.05, that of beef and beef products from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Argentina – the top beef exporters in the world – are priced at $6.73, $5.81, $5.00, $4.34, and $4.27, respectively (estimated as the value of export/quantity exported, source Trade Data Monitor, 2023),” it said. 

The USDA’s arm, however, came up with a caveat that political-military upheavals in the Red and Black Sea regions will limit some buffalo meat exports as sea freight and insurance rates escalate in response.

Cattle population to rise a tad

The Post estimated India’s cattle herd population, comprising bovine dairy cattle (Bos taurus and Bos indicus) and the Asian domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) at 307.42 million head, up marginally from the 2023 herd count of 307.4 million head.

India’s calf crop is expected to rise to 70.6 million head from 70.2 million head in 2023. “This incremental growth in calf crop numbers is attributed to bettering animal health, improved nutrition and a growing emphasis on increasing exports of carabeef (i.e., beef derived from the domestic water buffalo),” it said. 

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With the waning of the lumpy skin disease (LSD) in 2023, India’s cattle herd numbers are expected to continue to grow. India is currently the biggest exporter of buffalo meat.

According to the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, buffalo meat makes up for 22 per cent of the meat produced in India. The major areas for buffalo meat production are Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab.

For this year, the Post estimates a lower loss and residual figure for the national cattle herd.



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