BJP victory casts shadow over India’s beef export trade

Beef Central, 19/05/2014

The victory by Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s national elections last Friday has cast a shadow over the country’s beef and buffalo meat export industry, which incoming president Narendra Modi had threatened to clamp down upon should he win Government.

In the election results announced on Friday, the BJP Party won at least 280 of the parliament’s 545 seats, installing Mr Modi as the country’s new Prime Minister. With its coalition partners, BJP will control a majority of 340 seats in the new Parliament. It is the first time since 1984 that a single party has won an outright majority.

Narendra Modi

Newly elected Indian Prime Minister, Hindu naitonalist Narendra Modi, has pledged to clamp down on India’s beef export industry.

Modi has campaigned on a platform of driving economic development, but as a Hindu nationalist he has also pledged to clamp down on beef exports, which contributed more than $3 billion to the Indian economy last year.

The Indian beef and buffalo meat export industry is operated largely by Indian Muslims.

Modi made speeches during the election campaign condemning India’s beef export industry, a policy that appeals to the majority Indian Hindu population who hold the cow as sacred and see beef consumption as religiously objectionable.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies been criticised for stirring Hindu-Muslim violence in the past. In 2002, when he was Chief Minister of the state of Gujurat, he drew international rebuke for failing to do more to stop religious riots in the State, which led to the deaths of more than 1000 people, mostly Muslims.

India has a herd of 185m buffalo. Ample supplies and relatively weak domestic demand mean that it relies on export markets to absorb its production.

Indian exports are also said to include relatively significant volumes of beef from cows, which is the trade considered to be most under threat from the new Government. Cows are revered by Hindus, buffaloes less so. The slaughter of cows is already forbidden in most states of the country and the export of cow meat is banned.

Indian exports of both buffalo meat and beef have increased considerably in recent years under the rule of India’s Congress Party, with primary destinations including Vietnam, Malaysia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

India’s inability to provide assurance of Foot and Mouth Disease freedom has prevented it from accessing higher value export markets such as Japan, Korea, the US and Taiwan.

Despite also lacking official access to the Chinese market, it is believed substantial volumes of cheap Indian beef, and also Brazilian beef, still flow into China each year via illegal cross-border ‘grey channels’ from neighbouring Hong Kong and Vietnam.

In comments to media following Modi’s election victory on Friday, Indian beef and buffalo producers and exporters have said they expect their trade to be affected by additional controls and bureaucratic barriers following the BJP victory.

In comments reported by the Global Meat News, beef exporter Mohammed Saleem said it was unlikely the new government would ban the exports of buffalo meat, but added that “they did not have to” – the imposition of additional bureaucratic hindrances would be enough to slow and impede the trade.

He noted that when Modi was the chief minister of the State of Gujurat, officials routinely detained trucks carrying frozen buffalo meat coming into the State for days at a time to check if they were carrying cow meat, which is illegal to trade in Gujurat. The delays were a big blow to the legal buffalo meat trade, Mr Saleem said. He said State officials were mis-using rules against cow beef to hinder the trade.

Another Indian meat exporter from the All India Meat & Livestock Exporters Association expressed some optimism that “better sense” would prevail after the election but said the trade was still waiting for clarity on how the new Government will treat the industry.



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