India is set to emerge as the world's leading beef exporter this year, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service has forecast. India will ship roughly 1.5 million tonnes of beef in 2012, surpassing current top exporter Australia, according to the USDA report. That is more than double the exports India logged three years ago.
According to the report, global beef production in 2012 will be virtually unchanged from the last forecast of 57 million tonnes.
Global exports, however, are expected to increase by 497,000 tonnes to a record 8.7 million tonnes. India is seen accounting for 250,000 tonnes of the incremental exports, with additional export-oriented slaughterhouses expected to come on line this year.
Exports account for 44% of beef production in the country. The growth in exports thus underpins production increases.
For all that, Indian beef is not really beef as say the Americans know it — not a patch on Angus. It is water buffalo — and males and unproductive females at that — which exporters sell at lower cost to the meat-hungry, but price-sensitive consumers in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia.
Slaughter of cows and milk-producing buffaloes is banned under Indian laws. But the USDA still counts it all as beef, and economically, it competes in the same markets, the report said. To its credit, deboned frozen buffalo meat, also called carabeef, from India is lean and has positive blending characteristics important to processors. As per the most recent livestock census, conducted in 2007, buffaloes comprise a third of the bovine herd in India.
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