Swaminomics: Easy way to export meat, how is the situation changing under BJP rule?

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
7 Min Read

Author- Swaminathan S Anklesaria Iyer

What was one of the most shocking incidents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ten years of rule? BJP transformed from opponent to supporter of buffalo meat export. In the early years, there were reports of attacks by vigilantes on cattle traders, who were often wrongly accused of taking cows for slaughter. This problem increased further during the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. BJP won easily. As chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, a well-known cow lover, took immediate action against illegal slaughterhouses. However, they did not kill cows but buffaloes. However, each municipality was required by law to license slaughterhouses for local use. But some municipalities failed to issue licenses over the years and so the gap was filled by illegal slaughterhouses.

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impact on meat exports

Attacks by vigilantes reduced the supply of animals. The biggest loss was suffered by slaughterhouses producing buffalo meat, which were licensed for 100 percent export. Meat exports from these slaughterhouses increased. Exports reached a peak of $4.7 billion in 2014–15. These factories conformed to international physio-sanitary standards and had undergone rigorous testing to qualify for entry into importing countries. Some illegal slaughterhouses violated hygiene norms, but meat exporters did not. Yet they too had to suffer losses.

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Circumstances changed in Yogi government

After Yogi Adityanath came to power, during a visit to the Unnao-based factory of big meat exporter Alansons, its director Fauzan Alvi had made a big revelation. He told me that due to attacks by cow vigilantes on transporters there has been a 50 percent decline in the supply of cattle. Uttar Pradesh was by far the largest meat exporter state, so the entire industry was in trouble. Two local cattle transporters said cow vigilantes were roaming on main highways in search of such transporters. The police turned a blind eye to their looting. In such a situation, transporters started using small roads and winding routes to avoid attacks. However, he stressed that cow vigilantes were not Hindutva extremists but small-time goons who extorted money. Lynching was not common.

condition of slaughterhouses

Farmers sold dry buffalo to slaughterhouses, and the proceeds from their sales constituted a large portion of dairy profits. In a column I had said that cow vigilantes have endangered not only the meat industry but also the dairy and leather industries associated with it. These three together are the most important industries of the state. I explained that the bull is the ride of Lord Shiva while the buffalo is the ride of Lord Yama and no good Hindu should mistake one for the other. However, there was little hope for a change in policy. Soon after, the licenses of all buffalo meat factories in the state were up for renewal. Rumors of extortion and closure spread. Then, Alvi says, Yogi appointed a new officer with a reputation for honesty. He renewed each license without charging a single penny. It all seemed too good to be true.

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cattle transportation

Later, during a visit to Lucknow, the state's largest animal transporter said that now there are no cow protectors roaming on the roads. Cattle transportation was normal. Surely, I asked, police harassment was a fact of life. Well, he replied, the rules say that no more than 12 cattle can be loaded per truck, while in practice everyone loads 18-20 animals and pays the police to check. He would not call it oppression and anyway it has nothing to do with Hindutva.

'Meat industry is getting support from the government'

Fauzan Alvi, director of large meat exporter Alansons, claimed the industry is now getting full support from the government. It has foiled a major attempt to take bribe. However, there was repeated opposition from bureaucrats and even sabotage. Three small factories lost their licenses. But 12 new meat export plants were licensed in Haryana, another BJP-ruled state. This shows that the party's policy has indeed changed.

If circumstances changed, why did meat exports remain stable?

If conditions were so good, why have meat exports remained stagnant at about $3 billion in recent years? Alvi said the biggest hurdle is the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Indian cattle. Many countries had banned or limited quotas on meat imports from FMD countries, and meat prices were very low. On the insistence of the industry, PM Modi, in 2019, launched a National Animal Disease Control Program to increase milk production and meat exports by controlling FMD by 2025. That program has made progress, but its eradication target date is 2030.

This is how BJP's stance is changing

Alvi says that once we achieve this target, meat exports can double or triple as India is highly competitive and demand from countries like China-Indonesia is high. BJP's emphasis is on the expected increase in milk production rather than meat export. Despite opposition to meat exports by some elements, the party has understood that the dairy, meat and leather industries are interconnected. In such a situation, everyone should be promoted. This is a surprising but positive development.

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