Insight – Opportunities for Australian sheepmeat exports to India
14 March 2023
India’s growing population, rising consumer incomes, falling rates of vegetarianism and other demographic factors are increasing the demand for red meat.
India is a major global producer and consumer of carabeef (buffalo) and sheepmeat. Some sections of the population also consume beef (see Figure 1).
Sheepmeat has the strongest prospects for Australian exporters. This is due to dietary preferences and reduced tariffs under the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA).
Implications for Australian red meat exporters
Demand for red meat in India is growing. In the immediate term, India is likely to remain a small market for Australian red meat exports. However, there is potential for future growth.
AI-ECTA has reduced the import tariff on Australian sheepmeat from 30% to zero.
Australian sheepmeat exporters now have a tariff advantage over New Zealand, India’s main source of imported sheepmeat. This will make Australian sheepmeat more competitive in the Indian market.
Australian exporters should build relationships with Indian importers and retailers now to benefit from future opportunities.
Figure 1: Red meat production, total consumption and consumption per capita, selected countries
Indian sheepmeat consumption on the rise
Between 2019 and 2021, India was the world’s second largest consumer of sheepmeat. Compared to 2020, Indian sheepmeat consumption is expected to increase by 14% by 2031 (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Indian sheepmeat consumption 2020 to 2030
Increased consumption is being driven by several factors, including:
- Population growth: Since 2000, India’s population has increased by more than 350 million people (+33%) (Source: World Bank 2023). Though population growth is slowing, India’s population is reportedly already larger than China’s.
- Increased disposable income: As countries get wealthier and more urbanised, meat consumption tends to increase. India is rapidly approaching levels of consumer wealth that preceded large upticks in meat consumption in other developing countries, such as China and Vietnam.
- Falling rates of vegetarianism: In 2019–21, 44.5% of men and 34.5% of women reported eating chicken or meat weekly. This was up from 38.9% and 31.5% respectively in 2015–16, and 27.1% and 21.8% respectively in 2005–06 (see Figure 3).
- Youth culture: About 65% of India’s population is under 35 years old. This younger cohort tends to be more open to non-traditional food. They are also more likely to have been exposed to foreign food when travelling or living overseas.
- Ease of access: E-commerce platforms with national delivery capabilities have improved the availability of a range of novel foods, including red meat.
- Restaurants and dining: Indian fusion cuisines that incorporate elements of Western-style cooking are becoming increasingly popular.
Figure 3: Share of India’s population that reported eating chicken or meat once a week in 2005–06, 2015–16 and 2019–21
The role of trade in meeting India’s red meat demand
Domestic production will meet most of India’s growing demand for meat. Despite the importance of domestic production, there are opportunities for Australian red meat exporters in the Indian market.
- Wealthy Indian consumers are increasingly seeking premium food products. This creates opportunities for high-end imports.
- India’s food service and hospitality sector is reopening after the COVID-19-induced downturn. Restaurants and hotels are best suited to more expensive imported products.
- While still dominated by wet markets and independent retailers, India’s grocery sector is modernising. Over time, this will improve cold-chain logistics and product tracking.
The future success of Australian red meat exports will depend on:
- price competitiveness
- investment in marketing
- an expanded range of novel cuts and products
- building relationships with Indian importers and retailers.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has guidance material about the AI-ECTA.
Meat and Livestock Australia has published a red meat country brief for India.
Austrade has more information on the Indian economy and doing business in India.
The Australian Government’s network of Agriculture Counsellors provided information for this article. More information about the Agriculture Counsellor network, including contact details, is available on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website.
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