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Who moved my beef? Goa to face daily shortage of about 15-25 tonnes of beef as tourist season begins

By Flynn Remedios for IndiaNewsNetwork.IN  | 11th Oct 2015: The beef controversy across the country is likely to affect Goa’s heavily dependent tourism economy as most of the British and European tourists who visit Goa are heavy meat consumers. The Russians are not too far behind when it comes to beef consumption, though they are traditionally more fond of sea food and chicken, according to feedback obtained from several restaurant owners in Goa’s coastal belt.

According to a survey conducted by IndiaNewsNetwork.IN among regular foreign tourists who visit Goa for anything between two weeks to three months, sea-food and other fish items have become too expensive in Goa for the common or middle class tourist visiting the state. Most of the surveyed tourists opined if they are staying for 3-6 weeks in Goa, they could afford to consume sea-food only say twice or thrice a week as it is very expensive. The rest of the days one has to do with chicken, lamb, pork or beef dishes. Beef steak, beef kebabs, beef chilly, beef roast, etc., are some of the most favourite items on the menu of hundreds of Goan restaurants catering to foreign tourists.

Estimates state that during the peak tourism season from 20 Dec to 10 January every year, the consumption and demand for beef rises to about 60 to 70 tonnes per day. Currently the state is struggling to meet an average demand of 45-50 tonnes per day with the average daily supply or availability fluctuating between 30 to 40 tonnes of the red meat. With the ban on beef (cow and bull) slaughter in neighboring Maharashtra, supply from the state has come to a standstill. Earlier, slaughter houses in Maharashtra would cater to about 25 per cent of Goa’s beef requirement, particularly during the peak tourist season.

Meanwhile, following a 52-year-old man’s lynching in Uttar Pradesh over allegedly eating beef, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) general secretary Urfan Mulla said it has become risky for members of the minority community of Goa to store mutton or beef at home. Persistent pressure from right wing Hindu groups on beef transportation have shot up the prices of beef in the state where 27 percent of the people are from minority communities. According to media reports, Mulla was quoted as saying, “Minority communities in Goa are scared to store mutton or beef at home after what happened in Dadri,” Mulla said, while condemning last month’s Dadri attack in Uttar Pradesh where a Muslim man was killed and his son left severely injured by a mob which suspected them of having cow’s meat. Christians and Muslims account for nearly 27 percent of Goa’s population and are major beef consumers, along with a significant section of the three million tourists who visit the state annually.

Mulla also said specific targeting of beef consignments being imported into the state by Hindu right wing organisations, had resulted in a huge beef shortage in the state as well as hiked prices of the red meat. “Beef imports into the state are being targetted by the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) in Karnataka and other groups. Prices of beef in Goa have also escalated,” Mulla alleged. Beef is being sold at Rs.250 per kg in Goa, which has a daily demand of around 50 tonnes of beef. The price of beef last year was about Rs 175 to Rs 190 per kg, he added.

In its bid to quell the beef shortage in Goa, the BJP-led government in the state may start selling beef on its own during times of peak demand, officials said, blaming the mafia with links to meat traders for the shortage and price rise.

Beef is commonly consumed in the state’s more cosmopolitan tourism-oriented coastal belt of North Goa and some areas of South Goa. Official estimates suggest that the beef consumption in the state ranges from 30 to 50 tonnes per day and could rise to about 70 to 80 tonnes per day during the peak Christmas-New year season when lakhs of Indians from other parts of the country throng Goa.

Lyndon Monteiro, chairman of the Goa Meat Complex, a government agency said the state-run service abattoir – the only one licensed to officially slaughter cattle – was functional and blamed a cartel of illegal beef-selling mafia and rogue meat traders for the beef crisis in the state. The abattoir has a capacity to slaughter 120 cattle per shift. “There is no problem if you legally source cattle for slaughter or slaughtered carcasses from outside the state. The problem is that the beef mafia has been trying to get illegal and un-certified beef to Goa, which has resulted in crackdown,” Monteiro added.

He said animal rights activists were also holding the beef supply to Goa to ransom by raising repeated objections and alleging that all beef being brought to Goa was illegal.

Despite its image for venerating the cow as a sacred beast and regarding the eating of beef as “taboo,” tens of millions of people in India do indeed eat beef on a regular basis, opined several Goans who criticized the Government’s inaction in handling the shortage of beef in the state.

According to the Times of India newspaper, the situation in Goa has become so dire that a group of meat traders has urged the local government to release more than 100 cows and bulls from custody in order to help fill swelling demand for meat.

As reported in the media, Francisco Sardinha, a former South Goa member of Parliament, even criticized the state government for not making beef available in the market for “Christians and Catholics,” for whom beef is a staple diet.

In spite of a ban in many states, over the past four years, beef exports have surged by more than 44 percent, while domestic consumption has climbed by a comparable amount, according to Times of India.

Meat produced by registered slaughterhouses jumped from 557,000 tonnes in 2008 to 805,000 tonnes in 2011. Income from bovine exports are expected to reach 18 billion rupees ($328 million) this year.

In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, India became the world’s No. 1 beef exporter, beating out such perennial beef powerhouses Australia and New Zealand.

However, it is unclear how much of this beef comes from the sacred cow and how much from other bovine creatures. Indeed, buffalo are also slaughtered for their tasty flesh — Uttar Pradesh, a huge province in India’s north, is the country’s largest buffalo beef exporter.

“Our meat is lean and cheaper. We supply halal meat, which is preferred in [the Persian] Gulf countries,” Surendra Kumar Ranjan, director of Hind Agro Industries in Uttar Pradesh, was quoted by CNN.

Ranjan of Hind Agro believes Hindus in India should relax any cultural prohibitions on the beef trade in the interests of commerce. “Cow beef could be a very lucrative business in India,” he told CNN. “I think five to 10 years from now, people won’t be so scandalized by the sale of cow beef.”

CNN estimates that 1.5 million cows, valued at up to a half-billion dollars, are smuggled out of India every year — roughly one-half of the beef eaten in neighboring (and overwhelmingly Muslim) Bangladesh come from these “illegal” cattle.

– with inputs from CNN, PTI and agencies

About Manjari Yadav

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