Lockdown blues: Meat na mila re mann ka

New Delhi: The countrywide lockdown is forcing many meat eaters to adopt a herbivorous diet as supply of mutton has almost stopped while fish has become scarce in many states.

The price of mutton, when available, has risen more than 80% in major cities as slaughterhouses are shut and people are unable to bring goats from states like Rajasthan, a major supplier. Mumbai’s Deonar mandi, which supplies mutton to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, as well as Delhi’s Ghazipur mandi that caters to north India, are idling.

“The government-run authorised slaughter houses are closed. So there is no sale. Modern retail houses which were selling frozen mutton have finished their inventories. Neighbourhood meat shops are only providing mutton if they get licence and animal,” Abdul Rehman Abdullah, president of the Mumbai sheep and goat broker association, said. He said retail prices of mutton had increased to ₹850-800 a kg because of limited supply. In some cities, mutton has also been sold at ₹1,000 per kg as buyers were ready to pay high prices, traders said.

Chicken Sales Below Normal
“Mutton supplies in the country have dried up with major mandis, from Ajmer mandi in Rajasthan to Deonar mandi in Mumbai, closed,” said Shan Kadavil, founder & CEO of FreshToHome, an online fresh fish and meat store.

Lots Wholesale — a subsidiary of Siam Makro Public Co Ltd, Thailand’s leading Cash & Carry operator — has stopped mutton sales. Its managing director Tanit Chearavanont said there was no supply because slaughterhouses were shut.


“We also notice a slight alteration in customer behavior as ready-to-eat meals like chicken tikka, chicken nuggets, kebabs, etc, has seen an increased sale,” he said.

Chicken is available but sales are still below normal, partly because of the series of religious festivals, and in some cases due to rumours that its consumption may cause infection.

Fish supply has fallen sharply in northern India although there are signs of some improvement in supply in parts of western and southern India. Markets closer to coastal areas and inland fishery farms are getting barely 10-20% of the fish they usually consume.

The supply is better in West Bengal. The secretary of Howrah fish market in Bengal, Syed Anwar Maqsood, said the wholesale market was well supplied. “Price of fish has dropped at the wholesale market. A 1.2 kg rohu which was commanding a price of Rs 155 before lockdown is now available at Rs 135 per kg,” he said.

However, retailers find it difficult to travel to the wholesale market in the absence of transport. This has pushed up prices at the retail level by 12 -15%, said Ajay Haldar, a fish seller in Kolkata’s Gariahat market.

Less availability of cold storage is also a challenge for the fish trade, said Jagdish Fofandi, president of Seafood Exporters Association of India. He said that only 1-2% of the fishermen were going to the sea in small canoes, factories were running at 20% capacity and sales were less due to lockdown.

(With inputs from Sutanuka Ghosal in Kolkata and PK Krishnakumar in Kochi)

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