RLN-FES Microlevel study of the village level animal markets with particular reference to small ruminants (India)
Report of the study conducted in Northern Karnataka Markets
Dr. B. R. Athani
Special thanks to Mamta Dhawan (IGA CR - India)
Increase in urbanization and per capita incomes have lead to shift in preferences of consumers towards protein rich foods, mainly the meat and dairy products. Within the meat subsector, the consumers in the terminal markets can be segmented based on their attitude towards the type of meat in terms of its quality, age, sex and species of origin. As a result, the traditional livestock markets are getting reorganized as monopolistic competitive with focus on the above parameters. On the other hand, the data suggests that shepherding is declining in irrigated areas for want of grazing land and several other factors. But in other areas, predominantly the uplands, the trends are encouraging. The vibrant live animal markets are subtly heralding new opportunities in the subsector.
The study was intended to undertake subsector analysis for small ruminants with more focus on their markets and the supply channels operating in the vicinity of production areas. Subsector was mapped to analyze the dynamics including the gaps in order to identify and address the bottlenecks. The results points out that even though the markets appear monopolistic competitive, still, they are complex and lack considerable degree of transparency in pricing, grading the animals and flow of market information. Traders generally use “nigah” method of pricing that does not employ scientific measurements to determine price.
The price spread appears relatively thin, depends again on size of markets and presence of participants from far off metro cities. The channel length is shorter in small satellite markets where shandy traders and butchers from nearby small towns dominate. The price of the meat in such small markets is also lower compared to the one at metro cities by 20%-30%. Ideally the price of live animals should have direct correlation with price of meat in terminal markets, but we observed that it is never a straight jacket transfer. Apart from trade controlled assessments, tendencies for opportunistic behavior by the buyers based on the local market conditions (in terms of inflow of animals, distresses on part of sellers, number of participants from metros, etc.) determine price trends.
The existing channels in major livestock markets are invigorated by big players from metro cities like Chennai and Bangalore giving impetus to smallholder producers and pricing trends. Thus the resultant price spread in such major livestock markets in the region is also more when compared to the satellite markets. The major portion of this inter market difference is shared by producers and the logistic operators.
Apart from the price and relatively assured uptakes, markets are also opening up new avenues that are indicative of means to enhance returns to small ruminant producers. For instance, the increase in consumer segment relishing tender meat has created a new space for shepherds to improve productivity of herd by weaning away lambs at early age and fattening them for sale. The production practices have bearing on the quality of animals produced and hence there is scope to create a niche to group of producers demarcated by geography, etc. A focused initiative can help producers reap benefits from niche segments. Value addition of the live animal products like wool also needs attention.
There are many other issues that markets alone cannot address, like the one associated with factors of production, risk mitigation, flow of market related information, etc. What is needed is the organized interventions addressing these critical aspects and assisting producers in accessing quality inputs and judging basal minimum price for his animals based on their live weight. Major market reforms like mechanisms to regulate market information on price of meat and indicative price of unit of live weight is yet on cards of Government of Karnataka. Still the plans are hovering around the secretariat and nothing is materialized nor practiced at the markets. Similarly the conventional approaches for productivity enhancement adapted by state agencies like Sheep Board do not seem to have grounded well on the traditional wisdom associated with shepherding. Thus, in spite of all said odds in small ruminant production, the subsector appears surging up to provide renewed impetus to the livelihoods of the marginalized section of the rural communities.
The subsector needs those programs that are cohesive with such community practices that are of much value to the circumstances on the ground. Some of such measures are discussed as possible intervention areas.
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