Aussie Beef Experts Express Doubt About Endurance of India's Cattle Slaughter Law

AUSTRALIA - There are doubts about whether India's ban on the slaughter of cattle and buffalo will last.
calendar icon 31 May 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

The ban has sparked widespread protests in India as well as claims that millions of jobs will be lost if the government stops the nation's $4 billion beef export industry.

ABC News reports that the ramifications are being watched closely in northern Australia with Indian buffalo meat becoming a serious competitor to Australia's live cattle trade to Indonesia.

'Too much commerce at stake'

Industry consultant Ross Ainsworth, who is based in Jakarta, said he doubted the ban would last.

Dr Ainsworth said he visited India in December last year and was told at the time that buffalo would not be included in the ban, as they were not held in the same religious regard as cattle.

"I would be very surprised if what appears to be a ban on buffalo is actually real when all the detail of the ban rolls out," he said.

"I think there is too much commerce at stake for the ban to stop [slaughter of buffalo].

"The cattle trade is very tiny in India because it has always been a restricted situation but the buffalo trade has risen to be the world's largest meat trade.

"There is about 2 million tonnes of buffalo meat consumed in India and about 2 million tonnes sold internationally.

"If you took that out of the system, it would be a spectacular disruption to the world meat trade.

"It would cause the biggest disruption [to the world meat trade] since the Second World War, so I can't see it happening."

Ban could increase demand for Aussie beef

In the last 10 months, Indian buffalo meat has proved a fierce competitor in Indonesia, as the country has looked for cheaper forms of protein and slowed the importation of live Australian cattle.

CEO of the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association, Stuart Kemp, said India's ban could see more demand for Australia beef.

"What we've seen in the last six to 10 months is turnoff from feedlots and slaughter numbers down 40 to 50 per cent, since the introduction of Indian buffalo," Mr Kemp said.

"But if that competition is not there, you would like to think that would make trading a bit better for importers and feedlotters.

"[However] there is a lot of product [Indian buffalo meat] in the supply chain that will take a long time to filter through, so if there is an impact on our trade it will still be some time away."

Having said that, Mr Kemp went on to say detail around the ban was scarce.

"More demand for Australian product is always a good thing, but I wouldn't be high-fiving myself just yet, there is a lot of water to go under the bridge," he said.

"This may be a thought bubble, it may be serious policy, we will just have to wait and see."

Dr Ainsworth said he expected the Indian government would release more information on the ban sooner rather than later, given the size of the industry.

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