By Hansa Sinha
In what could be seen as a setback to India’s buffalo exports, China has continued its ban on imports of frozen buffalo meat from India. At a recent meeting of the Agricultural Committee of the WTO (The World Trade Organisation) India has raised this issue and it seems that India will take the dispute resolution route if China is not responsive in this regard. Keeping in line with the required procedures, the Indian representative pointed out that Chinese quarantine inspectors have already inspected the meat plants in India to their satisfaction. However, there have been no signs of China lifting the ban just yet.
In May 2013 the two countries signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to encourage the buffalo meat exports from India. This was in the aftermath of China banning Indian bovine meat due to the Foot & Mouth disease. It was duly verified that India had managed the disease as per internationally accepted standards. This MOU was signed between Chinese General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.
Over the years India’s buffalo meat exports have become the second highest agri-export commodity after Basmati rice. Many safety regulations and notifications have been employed by the government of India to make Indian exports worthy of this position in the global market. For instance, there was a notification by DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade) that stipulated that by June 2012, export of meat and meat products must be sourced exclusively from APEDA-registered abattoir or integrated abattoir.
India and China’s trade relations become even more important as India has a huge trade-deficit with China over $37 billion (as in 2013-14). Lifting of this ban could mean India selling meat worth over $1billion annually. The issue of unfulfilled MOU’s is also expected to be raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his upcoming visit to China.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that to evade the blanket ban by the country, Chinese exporters are routing their buffalo meat consignments by taking deliveries in Vietnam. The buffalo export meat exports to Vietnam have almost doubled in quantities and values during last two years. With the recent ban on beef in some of the Indian states, the export market of bovine meat in general could be affected. How the national and then bilateral issues pan out at the multilateral level is what we have to keep a close eye on.
We will keep you posted of all future developments in this regard.