“‘The export of red meat is steadily increasing this year and it may even go beyond an increase of 25 per cent compared to the previous fiscal,’ an official with the APEDA told The Sunday Standard. According to him, the figures are showing a steady increase in the first two months of this year as well. This is the first time that meat export from India has surpassed the export of basmati rice.” – Chitara Paul
The timing could not have been worse. At a time when the touchy subject of “beef eating” is turning into a national controversy due to the ban imposed by the BJP-Shiv Sena Government in Maharashtra, a government body has found itself with hot statistics on beef. Its hands, no wonder, are shaking.
As per the statistics the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)—the government’s gatekeeper for exports—the production and export of red meat have registered a steady jump during the BJP Government. The figures being collated by the APEDA, under the Commerce Ministry headed by Nirmala Sitharaman, says that the country has exported red meat to the tune of 15,91,581 MT (metric tonnes) till February. The figure for the same period last year was around 10,56,118 MT, which is lesser by 5,35,460 MT. In terms of revenue, there is a 19 per cent increase compared to the previous fiscal year.
‘Red meat’ includes the meat of both cows and buffaloes. The meat of sheep and other poultry are being exported under a different category.
“The export of red meat is steadily increasing this year and it may even go beyond an increase of 25 per cent compared to the previous fiscal,’’ an official with the APEDA told The Sunday Standard. According to him, the figures are showing a steady increase in the first two months of this year as well. This is the first time that meat export from India has surpassed the export of basmati rice.
The APEDA was planning to publish this huge jump as a “success story’’, but put on the brakes to its publicity exercise following the recent controversy.
“We have been collating details so that we can publish it as a positive growth story at the end of this fiscal. But now we are in two minds as beef has become a controversial subject,’’ said the official.
It was only last week that President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995, nearly 20 years after the Maharashtra Assembly passed the Bill during the Shiv Sena-BJP rule in 1995 in the state, thus making eating beef a political issue of national significance. The sale and possession of beef are now punishable by a jail term of up to five years.
Given the controversial nature of the subject currently, the APEDA may limit it to the usual ‘Red Meat Manual’, a routine annual publication of the APEDA.
The apprehension of the official is understood as this spurt in figures can make the BJP Government’s face red as its leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had never missed a point to attack the previous UPA Government for using “pink revolution” as a means for minority appeasement.
“This country wants a Green Revolution but those at the Centre want a Pink Revolution,” Modi had said in one of his election rallies criticising the UPA for its “beef friendly” policies. Modi was right as the red meat export had witnessed a 45 per cent increase during the UPA-II government.
Under India’s Export Policy 2012, export of “beef of cows, oxen and calf” is prohibited but “meat of buffalo (both male and female)” is allowed. Gelatine and glues derived from bones, hides and leather are also placed in the “free” (allowed) category. Despite the official ban on the export of cow meat and the meat industry’s claims that all its beef comes from buffaloes, it is an open secret that cow meat is sneaked into the buffalo beef market. This is done mostly by smuggling cows to states like Kerala and north-eastern states, where cow slaughter is not illegal.
India currently exports meat to 65 countries with the main ones being Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The main reason for the spurt in export of red meat, according to the official, is the opening up of the Russian and Chinese markets. “Though the Western countries are yet to have a liking for the taste of our red meat, the Asian countries love it. With China becoming the new market, it is expected to grow even more,’’ said the official. “We will take the figures to the higher-ups once we collate the figures for the entire fiscal. The rest is in their hands,’’ said the official. – The New Indian Express, 9 March 2015