news Sunday, May 24, 2015 - 05:30
International burgers eating into India's spicy street food market have bulged over the past decade. But the global chains, reluctant to pick bones with local laws and beliefs in the world's second most populous nation, are staying off beef and pork as they clash for a larger slice of the country's succulent fast-food industry.   Wendy's, the world's third largest hamburger conglomerate after McDonald's and Burger King, joined the battle for the Indian palate earlier in May. But the Ohio-based firm, in a public display of nerves, replaced its never-frozen, North American beef with socially-acceptable chicken and mutton burgers and six vegetarian offerings to boot.   "We thought hard about whether to do beef, but not doing so was a simple decision," Jasper Reid, a director of Sierra Nevada, one of Wendy's domestic franchisees, told IANS.   Despite local sentiments, beef, largely buffalo meat, is widely traded and served in street eateries in wide swathes of India, market observers say.    McDonald’s, which started operations in India in 1996, is also a participant in the beef-less race to sink its teeth deeper into the domestic quick-service restaurant industry, which is estimated to grow beyond Rs.7,000 crore ($1.12 billion) by 2016. The sector is seen to be posting a mouth-watering 25 percent growth a year.   Burger King waited 18 years before it opened outlets last year in some cities in India. But, then again, it too said it wanted no beef with local authorities, perhaps meaning the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party which swept into power in May last year. Its poll manifesto promises to put the cow on a cultural pedestal.   Traditions and inhibitions are roadblocks to eating habits and most fast-food chains say they respect the sentiments in the largely-conservative South Asian nation, wedged between beef-eating Bangladesh and Pakistan.   Carl's Jr. is the latest to tug on the doorbells in India, which despite being the new Promised Land for junk-food providers, remain 10th in size of China's fast-food market. The American-based restaurant chain, likely to open shop next month, appeared too eager to echo the same caution as its larger country cousins, many of which have penetrated India's grade-two towns with their beef-less tag.   Earlier this year, Maharashtra and Haryana outlawed the sale and consumption of beef and laid down strict punishment for those who slaughter cows, revered as holy by many Hindus in India, the world's largest buffalo meat exporter.   It is already being reported as to how the ban on cow slaughter and sale of beef will have adverse effects closer home, for farmers and beef traders.    Farmers are known to sell off bovine creatures for meat once they’re unfit for dairy production. The ban is likely to render the animals not just useless, but they could also be viewed as a “burden” now. “What will farmers do with the old cattle if they can’t send them to slaughterhouses?” the neglect that the cows suffer will end up being worse than slaughter”, K. Nagaraj, Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, had earlier told The News Minute.    And it is not just the farmers who are suffering, but several other allied sectors, including leather, export and chemical industry, that are bearing the brunt of beef ban.   Md Ali Qureshi, president of the Bombay Suburban Beef Dealers Welfare Association, explained to Hindustan Times, how the ban on trade in bull and bullock meat could result in higher demand which in turn will cause the prices to shoot. Haji Tahir, who buys hide, blood, bones and offal from butchers and supplies to other industries, told the newspaper that following the ban, his business had come to a “standstill”.   Experts have also warned about a possible illegal trade and a flourishing black market which can result from the ban. While global companies can alter their business models according to the changing laws in the country, how the farmer and those at the bottom of the chain cope with the ban seems to be a burning question today.     With inputs from IANS   Also read: Who could be the most affected by a nationwide ban on cow slaughter?  

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