Meat eaters see red

Aug 11, 2013, 01:19 IST | Shailesh Bhatia

Price of a kilo of mutton touches Rs 400 as government increases export of red meat to the Middle East, Malaysia and China, leaving meat lovers fuming. Many restaurants, too, strike lamb and mutton off their menu

Over the weekend, Eid revellers, who enjoyed sinking their teeth into scrumptious mutton kababs and biryanis were forced to switch over to more economically viable chicken options, thanks to debatable export incentive policies which escalated meat prices in the city. The price, at the moment, is hovering around Rs 350 to 400 per kg in the local market, say industry experts. To add to their grouse, a majority of Grade 1 restaurants in the city are striking mutton dishes off their menu for the same reason.

With the escalating mutton prices, the red meat has been struck off from many restaurants. File Pic

Shahnawaz Thanawala, vice president, Mumbai Mutton Dealers Association and who is on the advisory committee of the regulatory body for mutton trade in Mumbai, said, “India produces ample supply of mutton for its own consumption, and is one of the major exporter of mutton to the Middle East and UAE, with China, Iraq and Malaysia as the new entrants on our client list. With the current policy, an average trader makes a clear profit of 12,000 to Rs 24,000 per container, per day, so why will he sell it in the local market?”

He added that in the current scenario, eating mutton is a luxury, even for the elite. “Supplies to restaurants have dropped by over 75 per cent recently,” he said.  “Exports are good for the economic growth, but neglecting domestic demands, is not the best option. Majority of smaller restaurants, who continue to sell mutton dishers, purchase inferior quality, commercial grade meat, which belongs to old cattle, and is cheaper,” he added. 

Mutton wholesaler, Mariyam Sheikh, who operates from Navi Mumbai said that in the past two months, her client list of restaurants had dropped from 25 to zero. “We have had no enquiries for mutton from domestic market, but we get ample overseas enquiries,” she said.

Vanishing act from menus
Sumit Kadam, a senior member of AHAR, (Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association) who has been running a chain of family-run restaurants from Vile Parle to Dadar stated that with mutton acting pricey, very few clients would be interested in ordering it in a restaurant.

“To start with, getting good quality mutton is difficult. Once you get rid of the excessive fat and the bones, the restaurant cannot make more than five decent portions of dishes to be served. With all the overheads involved in cooking, the price factor further escalates. After all this, the restaurants may not find takers -- who would want to take the risk?” said Kadam. Rajan Parab, who owns a restaurant in Andheri too, confirmed that mutton was off their menu for over three months now. “Many of our regulars, who were die-hard red meat eaters, today opt for chicken, which is relatively inexpensive,” he said.

On the other side
Denying the effect of exports on local prices of mutton, Abdul Majeed Retiwala, general secretary of Export Association of Mutton and Livestock, Mumbai, said that more exports would, in fact, help in stabilising the prices of mutton. “On an average day, four tonnes of mutton is exported from Mumbai, mainly to Dubai, Doha and Qatar. China has its own cattle market and is an exporter, but it does import frozen mutton from India. It is the cattle farmers in India, who have hiked up the prices and being an open market, have a right to sell it to the highest bidder,” said Retiwala.

“It’s a simple principal of demand and supply. With the increase in consumption, the cattle famers, too, increase their production. On a regular day, 10,000 goats are brought to Mumbai to auction for domestic demand. The numbers increase three-fold when exporters are present. Prices of mutton in Kolkata and Delhi are much higher, as compared to Mumbai and in the region of Rs 400 to 450 per kg, during Eid,” claimed Parvez Qureshi, another senior member of Export Association of Mutton and Livestock, Mumbai.

Official speak
Pramod Dethe, general manager, Deonar abattoir, Mumbai informed that the government has no role in deciding the price of mutton in the city and the same is decided by the traders. “Blaming exports is incorrect, as there are other factors like cost of transportation of bringing goats from Rajasthan and Madhya Pardesh, which, too, plays a major role in escalating prices, which are the same, even in rural Maharashtra, as compared to Mumbai,” he opined.

Pricey mutton
Rs 110 per kg -- The cost of mutton in 2010-2011 in Mumbai

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