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India's buffalo meat exports hit six-year low on weak China demand

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s buffalo meat exports fell 8.7 percent in 2018/19 from a year ago to the lowest level in six years, a government body said on Thursday, as demand moderated from the country’s biggest buyer China.

India’s buffalo meat exports were 1.23 million tonnes in the fiscal year that ended March 31, the lowest since 2012/13, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) said in a statement.

China, which accounts for more than half of Indian shipments of buffalo meat, has been buying less in the last few months, said Fauzan Alavi, vice president of the All India Meat & Livestock Exporters Association.

“China is a huge market for us. Other buyers couldn’t replace it. Exports will fall further in the current year,” he said.

Beijing does not allow imports of Indian buffalo beef due to fears over foot-and-mouth disease but the meat is often smuggled into the country through neighbouring nations along with other foods that have also been prohibited by China.

India’s buffaloes are mainly used for dairy and are only slaughtered for meat after their milk productivity has peaked.

New Delhi’s rice exports in 2018/19 dropped 7.2 percent from a year earlier to 11.95 million tonnes, the APEDA added.

The drop was mainly due to poor demand for non-basmati rice from Bangladesh and African countries, it said, adding exports of non-basmati rice fell 14.5 percent from a year ago to 7.53 million tonnes.

Rice exports in the current fiscal year could fall further due to an appreciating rupee and a rise in local prices, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.

India’s guar gum exports rose 3.9 percent to 513,218 tonnes in the last fiscal year due to good demand from top buyer the United States, the APEDA said.

India is the world’s biggest exporter of buffalo meat, guar gum and rice.

The country’s exports of pulses jumped 59 percent last year to 285,783 tonnes, while dairy exports surged 77 percent to 180,682 tonnes due to government incentives for exports of skimmed milk powder, the agency said.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Edmund Blair