India is the third-largest beef exporter in the world, accounting for 16% of the global exports, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation has revealed. Brazil tops the list of the world’s largest beef exporters, and Australia comes in second.

The report did not specify whether the exports were of cow or buffalo meat.

India exported 1.56 million tonnes of beef in 2016. It is expected to maintain its position as the third-largest exporter of the meat till 2026 by exporting 1.93 tonnes that year, the OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2017-2026 report said.

The country imported as much as 3,63,000 tonnes of beef in 2016, according to OECD data. The total world beef exports in 2016 stands at 10.95 million tonnes, which is expected to increase to 12.43 million tonnes by 2026, according to the FAO.

On May 26, the Centre had issued new rules that require cattle traders to give an undertaking that the animals being sold at markets would only be used for agricultural purposes. Several states had massively criticised the notification, including Kerala, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh, among others. There had also been protests against the ban in some parts of the country, including a beef-eating festival organised in IIT-Madras, which led to an assault on a PhD scholar by alleged members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

On June 15, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the Centre’s notification banning the sale and purchase of cattle at animal markets for slaughter, and issued a notice to the government seeking an explanation.

On June 22, a Muslim boy aboard a local train to Ballabhgarh, Haryana, suspected to have been carrying beef, was lynched by a mob. Junaid was travelling home after Eid shopping in Delhi with some friends and relatives. A group of men made communal remarks about him and his companions after they refused to give up their seats for them. The men then assaulted them, and Junaid died as a result of the injuries he had sustained.

Thousands of citizens across the country later took to the streets to protest against the recent lynching of Muslims and other incidents of communal and caste-based violence.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 29 had disapproved of the killings in the name of cow worship. He had said Mahatama Gandhi would not have approved this either. “Killing people in the name of Gau Bhakti is not acceptable. This is not something Mahatma Gandhi would approve,” he had said.