India, which has an estimated pet animal population of 29 million, is facing a shortage of pet foods, a government body said on Thursday and urged the industry to boost local production by taking advantage of the existing central schemes.
Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) Chairman O P Chaudhary, addressing a webinar organised by industry body PHDCCI, said the industry players can avail credit facility given under the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Scheme (AHIDS) for setting up animal feed manufacturing facilities.
However, pet food makers such as Mars International India and Royal Canine India said higher taxes, ambiguous business environment, absence of uniform framework and quality standards are major hindrances for the sector's growth.
"On an average, India requires 30,000 tonnes of pet foods. In India, there are pet food manufacturers but not sufficient enough to meet demand and quality," Chaudhary said, while addressing the webinar on the pet food industry.
Also read: What is the carbon pawprint of pet food?
Some quantity of pet food is imported but is costly to reach the people at affordable prices, he said, adding that the scarcity of pet foods was faced during the covid-19-induced lockdown last year and the government had intervened.
Asserting that a balanced nutritious diet is key to keeping the pets healthy, Chaudhary said, however, pet foods are not reachable to every Indian pet owner because of the cost and availability.
Overall, animal nutrition is a concern for Indian livestock sector as there is about 35-40 per cent shortage of animal feed and fodder, he added.
Stating that the pet industry in India is growing at a faster rate, the AWBI Chairman said the government is taking measures to address the demand-supply gap and assisting the private sector to invest in setting up of animal feed plant under the ₹15,000 crore worth AHIDF scheme.
Under the scheme, up to 90 per cent credit is given at a lower rate form scheduled banks to the individuals, MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises), FPOs (Farmer Producer Organisations) and Section 8 companies for infrastructure development, he said.
Also read: Here's how to keep your puppy's gut healthy
"The pet food industry can avail the opportunities to manufacture pet food in India and meet the demand," he added.
Further, the Chairman said animal feed is not regulated in India at present. "There is no system in place for meeting licensing norms. Therefore, it is the high time to establish the pet food plants."
He also said that raw materials required for pet food is available in the country. India is producing 8.1 million tonnes of meat, out of which chicken meat is 50 per cent.
"The offals are wasted and same can be utilised for pet food manufacturing. Not only chicken and meat, India is sufficiently producing food grains which can also be utilised," he added.
According to AWBI Secretary Sujit Kumar Dutta, there is a huge opportunity in research and development of pet foods as many are demanding vegetarian pet foods. There is scope for development of India-specified pet food, he added.
At present, India does not have many pet food manufacturing facilities as it is not considered as a profitable business. Since pet industry is growing at a faster rate, companies can explore tapping this sector availing the support given by the government under the existing schemes, he noted.
Talking about opportunities and challenges in the pet food industry in India, Mars International India General Manager Ganesh Ramani said about 45-50 per cent of pet food consumed in the country is met through domestic production and the rest is imported.
To develop this sector, the government need to improve ease of doing business, reduce taxes, improve regulatory framework and quality standards, among others, he noted.
Echoing similar views, Royal Canine India General Manager Govind Suryavanshi said the pet food industry can grow provided these challenges are addressed.
The pet food industry size is pegged at ₹2,500 crore in India, which has a pet population of about 29 million. Out of them, 24 million are dogs and the rest are cats, as per industry data.