Dairy culls make India leading beef exporter

Population sparks demand


The global beef industry has changed a lot in the last five years as India unexpectedly emerged as a major exporter. 

“It is number four and could move up to number one or two very shortly and this is not going to diminish,” said Andrea Brocklebank, head of research for Canfax. 

Most Indian beef comes from water buffalo and dairy cattle. Southeast Asia and the North Africa-Middle East regions are India’s main beef export markets, she said at Canfax’s market forum in Calgary Nov. 14.

Australia, the United States and Brazil are the top three exporters. Canada is in fifth place.

Much of the growth in India is driven by increased milk production. The National Dairy Plan calls for milk production to increase by six million tonnes a year for the next five years. 

Twelve new meat processing plants are being built to handle the extra production. India’s biggest challenge is foot-and-mouth disease, which is controlled with vaccination. This affects market access.


Brocklebank said the world’s cattle herds are shrinking and the beef supply has declined for 10 years. 

“There is an expectation in 2013 that the cattle inventories will decline a bit more, but it definitely has levelled off,” she said.

GIRA, the international data group, predicts a good future for the beef industry because of a growing world population and improved incomes. It projects a six percent increase in global beef consumption over the next 10 years. 

However, Brocklebank said bad weather and unexpected economic disruptions may play havoc with some of the projections. 

Food market analyst David Hughes of the Imperial College of London said perspective is needed when talking about global meat markets. 


Global meat consumption rose by 16 million tonnes between 2007 and 2012. However, 10 million tonnes of that growth was for chicken.

Growth is slow in mature markets such as Canada, the U.S. and the European Union, but this is where the wealthiest consumers live and they are likely to spend more on meat, even if they buy less. 

“The big spenders on groceries are all in the developed world,” he said. 

Marketers need to study the demographics of an aging population with smaller households and fewer babies. The last census showed more than half of Canadian households comprise one or two people. In the United Kingdom, 65 percent of households are this small. 

Plans to sell more to Japan should be reassessed. Japan has 130 million people, but by 2050, close to 40 percent of the population will be older than 65. Seniors tend to have less money and eat less.


China is a growing economy but it would be unwise to over rely on it, he said.