Thai Poultry, Pork Processor Looks to India

INDIA - Thailand's Betagro sees demand for processed poultry products rising in a country where sales of live birds still predominate, as well as potential to expand into pork production there.
calendar icon 10 August 2010
clock icon 5 minute read

India's 400-billion-rupee poultry industry is growing strongly and is transforming itself into a more integrated industry to tap into stronger demand for higher quality meat from consumers, reports Bangkok Post of Thailand.

The robust economic growth of India has enlarged the urban and middle-class population and this has lead to changes in the behaviour of the consumers, lifting sales of chicken meat in fast-food chains. The trend has driven many Indian companies to make changes and some are looking for direction to Thailand, considering its high profile in the world chicken industry, among the top five in chicken exports.

Betagro Group, one of Thailand's leading chicken producers and exporters, has been approached by a major chicken company in India to help develop meat production processes, supplied from its slaughterhouse.

Vanus Taepaisitphongse, chief executive of the group, said the chicken industry of India was interesting.

He said: "It is a huge market with many players but the sale of live birds still dominates, largely at local markets. Products such as chilled and frozen meat are few and many supermarkets do not carry such items."

Mr Vanus is confident that Betagro has the expertise in meat processing to meet the needs of the Indian company.

He declined to name the company as talks are continuing but it is said to be one of the top five chicken producers in India with about three billion baht (THB) in annual sales. The company operates chicken farms and a slaughterhouse with a capacity to produce 10,000 chickens to supply domestic markets.

Mr Vanus said the deal would match Betagro's objective to adapt its technological know-how and management expertise to fit particular markets.

Its successful technologies in chicken, swine and food processing are partly a result of lengthy and continuing relations with Japanese partners who have transferred knowledge and technologies to the Thai company for 30 years.

The company first entered a joint venture with Toshoku of Japan in 1980 to form Better Foods Co to process fresh and frozen chicken plant. This was followed by a number of joint investments with big Japanese multinational trading corporations including Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, Ajinomoto and Itoham Food Inc, which brought in advanced technologies and new management in livestock and food industries and helped rise up the profile of Betagro in international markets.

The group generated about THB50 billion in sales revenue last year, of which 17 billion baht was from the chicken unit.

Betagro Group executive vice-president, Nopporn Vayuchote, said that although the business outlook in India is promising, consumption per capita remains very low at 2.4kg per head per year, compared with 9.6kg in Thailand and 10kg in China.

Mr Nopporn explained: "Some other major obstacles in the India chicken industry that we have observed are that the sales of live birds remain strong, resulting in slow expansion of slaughterhouse businesses. Furthermore, inadequate utilities, especially electricity in some cities, would impede meat processing production for which cold-chain supply is vital."

But he expects these impediments will be overcome soon as economic growth props up chicken meat consumption.

According to Bangkok Post, Mumbai-based diversified agribusiness company Godrej Agrovet predicted local chicken consumption would double to about 4.5 to 5.0kg by 2014-15 thanks to the rapid growth of dining out and expansion of quick-service restaurants.

It expects the rise will lead to big investment expansion by current players to process about 4.8 billion birds commercially in the next four to five years, from 2.4 billion today.

Mr Nopporn said the swine industry in India also had business potential, given a pork-consuming population of about 40 million.

"Using the same concept [as with chicken], we could transfer our expertise and know-how in the meat industry for interested partners for some areas such as upstream, not the entire business through to downstream," he said.

Betagro's strategy is unlike that of the CP Group, which tends to make large investments from primary industry to finished products. In India, the Thai conglomerate's C.P. Aquaculture (India) Private Limited produces and sells aquaculture feed, runs shrimp farms and processing plants with a head office in Tamil Nadu.

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