New Delhi: India’s earnings from exporting buffalo meat will touch 40,000 crore in the next five years from 26,682 crore in 2015-16, Icra Ltd said on Thursday.

Increasing demand from developing economies, high population of buffaloes in India and the ease of slaughtering buffaloes unhindered by religious sentiments have fuelled the growth of this export item, Icra said, adding, buffalo meat exports grew at a compounded annual rate of 29%, from 3,533 crore in 2007-08 to 26,682 crore in 2015-16.

According to Icra, India currently accounts for 20% of the world’s total buffalo meat and beef export volume, and became the largest exporter by quantity overtaking Brazil and Australia in 2015-16. In the last two years, buffalo meat was India’s largest grossing farm export item contributing 1.56% to total export revenues, which doubled from 0.76% in 2010-11.

However, unlike other countries which primarily export beef, India exports buffalo meat. Culling of cows for meat is largely banned in India.

“The buffalo meat industry is largely unorganised and fragmented and only moderately regulated," Icra said, adding, “it also remains vulnerable to risks pertaining to social and political sensitivity, sustainability of buffalo population, disease outbreak risk and high competition from the global beef industry."

Within India, Uttar Pradesh accounts for the highest share of buffalo population at 28% and is the leading meat producing state.The state is home to 60% of slaughter houses and meat processing units in the country.

“In the long term, we expect buffalo meat exports to continue to report healthy growth, driven by improving infrastructure, a sizeable buffalo population the relatively lower price of Indian buffalo meat, and steady demand in the international market," said Sabyasachi Majumdar, senior vice-president, corporate sector ratings at Icra.

Data from government reports show the changing pattern of livestock ownership in India, likely driven by the fact that farmers prefer to rear buffaloes instead of cows, due to higher milk yields and ease of culling, providing full economic value of the animals.

According to Livestock Census reports, between 2007 and 2012, India’s buffalo numbers rose 3.2%, from 105.3 million to 108.7 million, while overall cattle population declined by 4.1%, from 199 million to 191 million. Among cattle, growth of indigenous cattle fell 8.9%, while that of exotic and cross-bred varieties rose by more than 20%, the data shows.

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