South Asia's feed industry growing

by David McKee
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Asia feed
Nepal's first steel grain  silos were supplied to Probiotech's feed and soybean processing operation about 10 years ago by SCAFCO Corporation. 
Photo by David McKee.
 
The Indian subcontinent long has been one of the world’s most undernourished regions in terms of caloric intake and consumption of animal proteins.

Poverty has not been the sole reason for the latter deficiency. Religion and culture also have played a role.

Over the last 10 years rapid economic development and greater dietary acceptance of meat, particularly poultry, as well as eggs and fish have resulted in sustained high rates of growth in feed processing and in production and trade of maize, soybeans and other coarse grains and oilseeds.

With a combined population of 1.6 billion people, the major countries of South Asia — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh — as well as smaller ones like Nepal and Sri Lanka all have seen average growth rates of 8% to 10% in compound feed production due to dynamic investment in modern feed and livestock operations.

Greater planting and increased yields of maize, most of it for feed use, has resulted in a near doubling of production in just a decade, prolonging the region’s decades-old green revolution.

South Asia’s surge in maize and feed production is examined nation by nation in the survey that follows.

India

Population: 1.27 billion

Maize production: 24 million tonnes

Feed production: 29 million tonnes

The world’s second most populous country now ranks fifth globally in maize production, sixth in soybeans (10.5 million tonnes), fifth in feed, third in eggs (84 billion pieces), and fourth in chicken meat (4.5 million tonnes), per USDA data.

Nevertheless, India’s meat and egg consumption on a per-person basis is just a small fraction of that of China or the U.S., with the first and third most people. Thus a long period of sustained growth in the feed and livestock sectors may be anticipated.

A 2015 Rabobank survey projected 8% annual growth in Indian compound feed production for the next five years, slightly higher than expected GDP increases.

Maize production nearly doubled in the period from 2004 to 2014, but production has leveled off since then partly due to a sharp decline in exports to Southeast Asia as international prices fell. The potential for further production increases is still enormous as domestic demand for feed and starch production continues to rise.

Maize yields, though increasing, are still just 2.5 tonnes per hectare, less than half the world average of 5.5 tonnes per hectare. In some top producing states like Andhra Pradesh, where the use of single cross hybrid seed is widespread, yields have nearly caught up to the global average.

Maize is a pan-India crop with production exceeding 1 million tonnes in at least eight states. The two southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh make up nearly 40% of production. Maize is grown year round but the rainy summer kharif season, dominated by the southwest monsoon, accounts for 70% to 80% of annual plantings.

The government has introduced a minimum support price for maize to help stimulate output, particularly during the dry winter rabi season, helping to even out availability throughout the year.

The city of Gulab Bagh in the northern state of Bihar, with a large rabi harvest, is the site of the country’s largest delivery center and market auction place (“mandi”) for maize with up to 2,000 trucks arriving daily and maize accounting for the bulk of the 2 million tonnes of cereals and legumes traded there annually. Much of India’s maize exports to neighboring countries, including nearby Nepal, are purchased at this mandi.

The Compound Livestock Feed Manufacturers Association of India (CLFMA) reports 233 members comprising a rapidly expanding formal sector. CLFMA estimates the value of feed production at $15 billion.

Broiler, layer and dairy made up 38%, 32% and 26%, respectively, of the production per the Alltech Feed survey. However, CLFMA reports that compound feed accounted for only 50% of poultry and 10% of total cattle feed and aquafeed requirements in India.

Domestic soybean meal consumption has increased to about 5 million tonnes per year, up 50% from the first years of this decade. As a result, India may soon lose its status as an exporter of soybean meal and become instead a major net soy complex importer. During the three years from 2010 to 2012, soybean meal exports made up 59% of total average production of 7.7 million tonnes per year, but exports fell to only 17% of total production from 2014 to 2016.

International players are stepping up their presence in oilseed processing. In May 2016, Adani Wilmar, a joint venture between Asia’s largest agribusiness group Wilmar International and India logistics giant Adani, acquired a two-thirds share in Ruchi Soya, India’s biggest soybean processing company. Adani Wilmar already had eight seed crushing units across India with daily capacity of 7,400 tonnes.

By value, milk is by far India’s most important agricultural commodity and India is the world’s top producer. As breeds with better genetics replace traditional cows with low milk yields, the adoption of compound feed for dairy cattle may be expected to increase at an even quicker pace.

India’s enormous wheat and rice milling sectors, processing a combined 150 million to 200 million tonnes per year, are a major source of bran and other byproducts for all types of feed, but particularly for cattle.

Pakistan

Population: 202 million

Maize production: 5.2 million tonnes

Feed production: 6.2 million tonnes

Pakistan’s feed and livestock enterprises constitute the country’s most technically advanced and competitive agribusiness sector, according to many observers. The feed millers association counts over 150 producers of pelleted feed, supplying over 70% of total broiler feed requirement. Poultry production has been almost fully transformed from a backyard to commercial activity in the last couple of decades.

Government market intervention in the corn sector is minimal aside from 40% import tariffs. Production, which is almost exclusively for feed and starch use, has risen two-thirds from 3.1 million tonnes in 2006 to 5.2 million tonnes in 2016, according to USDA data with less than 10% increase in planted area. The high domestic prices boosted by tariffs have stimulated increased spending on inputs. International seed companies are well established in Pakistan. High yielding varieties and hybrids now make up 40% of the planted area and 70% of overall production, according to the most recent USDA report. In the Punjab region, two maize crops are harvested annually and 65% of overall production benefits from irrigation.

The country imported 1.7 million tonnes of soybeans and 700,000 tonnes of soybean meal in 2016 to make up for the short domestic supply of vegetable proteins. Soybean imports were almost nil up to 2014 when the government imposed import tariffs, now fixed at 21%, to support local crushers. Soybean meal imports have fallen by a third since the peak of 1 million tonnes in 2013, but total soy complex imports are still 2.5 times higher than just three years ago.

Prior to the recent surge in soy imports, cottonseed meal had been the main source of vegetable protein, but its production has declined 22% to 1.4 million tonnes since peaking at 1.86 million tonnes in 2014.

Though the predominantly Muslim country faces none of the cultural taboos that prohibit beef consumption in its giant neighbor, broiler meat still dominates as a meat source. A USDA report said that feed conversion rations for broilers have improved from 2.2 kg to 1.6 feed per kg live weight since the early 2000s. About two-thirds of maize production goes to poultry feed. Wet milling for starch production uses up most of the remainder of the crop.

Bangladesh

Population: 156 million

Maize production and imports: 1 million tonnes (author’s estimate)

Feed production: 3.1 million tonnes

The most densely populated large country in the world with about 1,000 people per square kilometer, Bangladesh has made tremendous strides in the last 10 to 20 years not just toward self-sufficiency in rice production, the source of over 70% of caloric intake, but also increasing dietary protein.

Fried chicken outlets like Kentucky Fried Chicken as well as a half-dozen copycats (BFC – Best Fried Chicken, CFC – California Fried Chicken) are ubiquitous in the crowded megalopolis Dhaka.

The poultry sector has several large operators with hundreds of thousands of layers and broilers. Many are integrated with feed milling.

The country’s largest agribusiness companies like Meghna Group and City Group are active in soybean crushing. Soy complex imports consisting of beans (1.2 million tonnes) and meal (300,000 tonnes) have tripled since 2006.

Domestic maize production is small but increasingly substituted for the second rice crop in some areas. Most maize comes from nearby Bihar state, one of northern India’s largest producers, in unofficial cross border trade.

Byproducts from 34 million tonnes of milled rice production in Bangladesh constitute a major starch component for poultry feed. In addition to rice bran, automated rice mills in Bangladesh may generate up to 2 million tonnes of rice flour available for poultry feed by grinding off 15% of the endosperm to make so-called miniket, a milled rice category that appears longer and finer and commands a premium price.

Nepal

Population: 29 million

Maize production: 2 million tonnes

Feed production: 750,000 tonnes

The explosion of compound poultry feed production in Nepal in recent years is a case study of economic development improving diets.

A dozen years ago there was a single producer of pelleted poultry feed in the country. Today there are said to be over 50 such companies, 20 of which have capacity of 10 tonnes per hour or more, though Nepal’s per capita GDP is still smaller than any of India’s 29 states and territories and its population is less than 15 of those states

Nepal is mainly a Hindu and Buddhist country. Thus eggs, broilers, and, to a lesser extent, fish, have been the major drivers of increased animal protein consumption.

But this dietary change has been learned behavior transcending just a generation. Mr. Keshab Bikram Khadka, the proprietor of one of Nepal’s largest feed milling companies, Shree Daonne, in the border city of Bhairahwa, is well-known under the name Swami Tathagat for his campaign spanning 30 years to teach Nepalese how to cook chicken meat.

Most feed milling is clustered in three large cities on the border, with India on Nepal’s southern lowland plain called Terai, an irrigated zone extending from the northern Ganges plain. Up to two-thirds of maize used in feed milling is imported from India mainly due to quality considerations. The bulk of poultry production is in the Chitwan valley halfway between the Terai plain and the heavily populated Kathmandu valley to the north.

There are at least two soybean crushers. The largest, Probiotech, which was also the original producer of pelleted feed, recently upgraded its plant with dehulling equipment in order to produce the country’s first high protein soybean meal.

Nepal’s grain logistical infrastructure also is improving. There are at least five feed milling companies with steel silos for storage of maize.

Sri Lanka

Population: 22 million

Maize production and imports: 500,000 tonnes (author’s estimate)

Feed production: 770,000 tonnes

At 35 kg per capita, Sri Lanka has the highest rate of compound feed production per capita of any South Asian country. Soybean meal imports reached a record 230,000 tonnes in 2016, twice the level of 10 years ago. Bran from 3 million tonnes of milled rice production and 1 million tonnes of annual wheat imports is available as a feed component.

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