Challenges and potential of meat exports

By Staff Reporter | Dawn Apr 18, 2022

The country produced at least 4.9 million tonnes of meat in 2020-21 as per the Economic Survey of Pakistan. Of it, only 95,991 tonnes or around 2 per cent of the total production could be exported, mainly to Gulf Cooperation Council states and some Far East countries.

In Pakistan, meat production is still based on traditional management practices and is less productive. For the last few years, the annual growth of meat production has, however, shown elevated trends. Since 2003, Pakistan’s meat industry has grown at a phenomenal annual rate of 27pc, from $14 million in 2002-03 to $339.93m in 2021. Beef is the prime traded product as the country is ranked among the top 20 meat exporters in the world.

The livestock sector contributed 60.1pc to agriculture and 11.5pc to the GDP during 2020-21 as per the Economic Survey. Over 8m rural families are engaged in livestock production deriving around 35-40pc of their income from this source. The gross value addition of livestock has increased by 3pc in a year, from Rs1.461 trillion in 2019-20 to Rs1.505tr in 2020-21, it reveals.

Pakistan has been hoping to export meat and meat preparations worth $500m by the end of the current fiscal year as Jordanian, Indonesian and Egyptian markets are also opening to it. Jordan has recently allowed three Pakistani meat processing companies to export bovine, sheep, goat and camel meat to it, while talks are underway with Indonesian authorities to open its market to Pakistani meat. The first export consignment for Jordan was scheduled for November 2021. But no consignment could be dispatched to the Arab country though the samples had been approved by its department concerned.

Musaab Mian Muhammad of Tazij Meat & Food, one of the three facilities approved by Jordanian officials during their visit last September, says the commercial attache in Jordan had worked hard in opening the Arab country’s market for Pakistan Halal meat and they were hoping that Pakistan would be able to export meat and its preparations worth $100m during the year. Jordan is a promising market as its annual meat imports are worth $400-500m. But, for unknown reasons, the early enthusiasm shown by the potential Jordanian buyers soon lost steam, he says.

Similarly, officials at the foreign mission in Indonesia have tried their best to introduce Pakistani meat there and initial dialogue in this regard has been very successful, but perhaps the foot and mouth disease (FMD) is keeping this and other markets away from our meat, he says.

A Pakistani company has offered to supply semi-cooked or precooked meat to China as the heating process kills the FMD but has received no response so far and local exporters continue to access the Chinese market through Vietnam.

“Luckily, the country meets all the requirements needed for securing a big share in the international market. The country has around 100m large animals. The sector is growing at an annual healthy pace of 4pc against a 2.7pc increase in population, leaving a substantial margin for export.

Being a Muslim state with halal-certified slaughterhouses, there is no reason why we should not be able to carve a big niche for ourselves in the halal global meat business, he says, but laments that the prevalence of the FMD is proving to be a major bottleneck in the way.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is against exports from countries with FMD. The OIE restriction, however, leaves an opportunity open for such countries: create FMD-free zones and farms and export from there. Punjab has tried to establish an FMD-free zone in its Cholistan desert but for want of political will and the existence of bureaucratic red-tapism, the initiative didn’t last long though some 2,000 farms had been registered under the project and more than Rs3 billion private investment flowed in as people set up new farms to benefit from likely export opportunities.

Mr Muhammad suggests that as Lahore is the hub of meat export, an FMD-free zone should be created in the nearby Kasur district, which has a good number of quality livestock. He also calls for undertaking a regular universal vaccination of animals like children to make the whole country an FMD-free zone at a cost of just Rs500 million.

With significant improvements in the earnings of the Chinese, the country has recently emerged as the major beef importer in the world. Pakistan is already supplying beef to China through Vietnam. But this indirect route comes with problems of lower prices and uneven order placements.

Pakistan does have tariff concessions on meat exports in its Free Trade Agreement with China. But, in the absence of market access, they remain of no use.

Syed Hasan Raza of Syed Traders presents a two-pronged roadmap to increase meat exports to China. The first is the signing of a protocol with the Chinese government followed by an inspection of meat processing facilities by AQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine). The two countries have already signed similar protocols for rice, mangoes and citrus.

After FMD, a new challenge is emerging for meat export in the form of lumpy skin disease. The disease was first reported in March in Karachi and later spread to other Sindh districts as well as Rahim Yar Khan, and adjacent districts in Punjab. “So far, the disease reports have been ignored by foreign buyers but these may negatively affect exports if the government does not act swiftly to control the lumpy skin disease,” Mr Raza says.

Meat export, like all other export businesses, is a value-added chain — production, processing and marketing — that requires focus on all three areas. Farmers’ management practices need to be improved for quality production, better breeding and nutrition of animals. Pakistan has some of the finest livestock breeds but they need to be raised according to international standards. “Once it is done, it should give Pakistani exporters an edge in the world market,” says Shehzad Aslam Ghauri, general manager of a meat export company.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, April 18th, 2022

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