By the year 2030, India will be the world’s largest consumer of food, according to Eric Joiner, vice chairman, AJC International, and chairman of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council’s International Poultry Development Program. Joiner, speaking at the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council’s annual meeting in Williamsburg, Va., said that India currently has 1.27 billion people living in an area one-third the size of the United States. There are 650 million people in India under the age of 30, equivalent to the combined populations of the U.S. and the EU.

There is a growing middle class in India, with per capita income growing at 4.9 percent annually. One million engineers graduated from universities in India last year. Joiner said that 60 percent of the population is non-vegetarian. Broiler production and consumption are growing at a 12 percent annual rate, currently at 2.8 kilograms per capita, but approximately 5 kilograms for the meat eaters.

Explosive growth

Total poultry consumption in India is expected to triple to 9.1 million metric tons by 2030. There is currently a very small processing industry in India; 95 percent of poultry is sold live through wet markets. Live chickens are purchased in the market, and they can be killed and processed for the consumer right there, or the live bird can be brought home. Joiner said that branded processed and refrigerated poultry sales are expected to grow 20 fold by 2030 to $8.3 billion. Quick serve restaurant chains in India, such as McDonald’s and KFC, are predicting explosive growth, but supply is a limiting factor, Joiner reported.

Joiner characterized India as a dynamic growth market. “There is extreme demand and dynamic growth in a lot of different areas,” Joiner said. “Clearly there are major challenges in food safety, biosecurity, governmental oversight, and very little regulatory oversight.”

Joiner said that quick serve restaurant and retail growth potential are limited in India by processing and cold chain capacity.

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“Imports will come, but it will take a long time,” Joiner said.

Developing markets

Joiner said that the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council’s philosophy is that healthy and safe poultry products help everyone, not just U.S. producers. “A rising tide floats all boats,” he said. Because of this philosophy, he said that the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council tries to engage poultry industry groups in countries like India to help them develop and modernize. The Indo-Dutch Centre for Excellence is already working with Indian poultry producers.

Osler Desouzart, consultant, OD Consulting, said that the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council  and Brazilian poultry producers should work together to open export markets for poultry. “We have to talk and cooperate,” he said.

The U.S. and Brazil are the two largest poultry exporting countries, and opening markets is good for the consumers in importing countries and for Brazilian and U.S. producers.

Desouzart, who reports that he visits with clients in India a few times a year, said, “We should be visiting India.” But he isn’t optimistic that the Indian government will open the country to poultry imports: “They shall not open their markets; [the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council should] join forces with the Brazilians and prepare for a fight.”