In a move that surprised many and perhaps was a nod to Hindu conservatives, the government of India has banned the sale of cattle, including cows and buffaloes, for slaughter.
India is a nation primarily made up of Hindus, a religion that venerates cattle and eschews eating meat. News sources say 18 of its 28 states already ban cattle slaughter. Three others require permits, and seven allowed cattle slaughter.
INDIA’S BEEF EXPORT TRADE
In spite of that, the country has a $4-billion beef industry and has become the world’s second largest beef exporter, accounting for 19.6% of all beef exported last year. The USDA lists Brazil as the world’s largest exporter, also with a 19.6% of world market share.
Australia is the third largest with 14.7%, and the US drags in at fourth with 11.9%.
India’s beef exports actually are made up mostly of buffalo meat, which is chewier than beef from cattle but is classified as beef by the USDA. It is cheaper than beef from cattle and goes mostly to Asia and the Middle East as a rising middle class is looking for more protein in their diets. Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are key markets.
The rest of India’s exported beef comes from old dairy cows, an outlet for which has become necessary to keep the nation’s dairy industry going. Between the spent dairy cows and the buffalo meat, the country has been able to grow its beef export market to its high point.
It’s not clear what will become of the cows and buffalos that last week were going to slaughter.
Among the key beneficiaries of India’s sudden ban on cattle and buffalo slaughter will be Brazil and Australia who export more grass-fed and cow beef than the US. Exported US beef is mostly offal meats and high-eating-quality muscle cuts.
The retail US beef market could get a boost, however, as Australia and New Zealand take advantage of their closer proximity to India’s main markets and divert lower-eating-quality beef there. This could make US beef imports more expensive and boost the cost of hamburger to consumers.
HIDE TRADE ALSO AFFECTED
Not only will world beef markets be upset by India’s slaughter ban, but hide markets also will be moved to a higher level, market analysts said.
Hides are a major byproduct of the beef industry, and with India’s 20% beef market share comes a 13% share in world hide markets. Hide and leather markets the world over could see price increases.
The upshot could be less leather upholstery in cars and fewer leather clothes and accessories for men and women. Leather just may become too expensive for many.
Traders are seeking more information, though, before rushing to judgement.
CASH CATTLE QUIET
Fed cattle traded on the livestock exchange Wednesday at an average of $132.18 per cwt on a live basis, down $0.36 from $132.54 a week earlier. Cash trading then took place at $131.25 to $132.50, steady to down $0.75.
However, the bulk of the week’s trading took place on Thursday and Friday at $136 to $137.50 per cwt on a live basis, up $4 to $5, and at $215 to $216 on a dressed basis, up $7.
The USDA’s choice cutout Friday was down $0.34 per cwt at $245.24, while select was up $0.84 at $218.06. The choice/select spread narrowed to $27.18 from $28.36 with 112 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Thursday was $149.80 per cwt, up $2.69. This compares with Friday’s Aug settlement at $158.72, up $1.65.