Coronavirus fears halt export of buffalo meat

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Since 2013-14, buffalo meat had been the largest export item in the agri commodity basket for a few years. Since the coronavirus outbreak in January, Indian exporters have received no fresh orders from Southeast Asian and West Asian countries, which cumulatively contribute nearly 65 per cent of India’s overall buffalo meat shipment.

Buffalo meat exports have come to standstill after Malaysia, Vietnam and Turkey, the three major destinations of India’s exports, stopped placing orders following the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

This is the worst ever crisis for these exporters.

Since 2013-14, buffalo meat had been the largest export item in the agri commodity basket for a few years. Since the coronavirus outbreak in January, Indian exporters have received no fresh orders from Southeast Asian and West Asian countries, which cumulatively contribute nearly 65 per cent of India’s overall buffalo meat shipment.

With coronavirus gradually spilling over to China’s trade partners and other countries now, buffalo meat exports have come to a standstill.

Many consignments that were shipped to various countries, including Hong Kong, Vietnam and Malaysia, ahead of the New Year celebrations in China on January 25, 2020, are still stuck at ports due to the lockdown there. Those who had already shipped their consignments before the Chinese New Year are still waiting to get paid from importers there.

Exporters fear default in buffalo meat shipments could be in millions and may create business hurdles in the future.

Trade with Malaysia and Turkey were also hit due to their anti-Indian stand over abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir.

“There is absolutely no orders received since the coronavirus outbreak in China. Tonnes of exported buffalo meat await clearances at various ports. Millions of dollars of receivables are still pending due to the lockdown there. We are trying to convince local authorities of importing countries to clear the consignments and deposit them in cold storages there,” said Soeb Khan, managing partner, Fresh N Frozen Tech, a Hyderabad-based manufacturer and merchant of buffalo meat.

The delay in clearing consignments at importing ports resulted in huge amounts of demurrage being paid over and above the container and freight charges.

Data compiled by the Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Authority (Apeda) showed that India’s buffalo meat exports declined by 8 per cent in value terms to $2.8 billion between April 2019 and January 2020 compared with $3.05 billion in the corresponding period last year.

In terms of quantity, however, the decline was a mere 2.4 per cent to 1 million tonnes.

Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters.

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