Hoteliers and consumers in Kerala have said the price of beef has shot up in the last 2 days after a central government rule outlawed the sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets triggering a political storm in India.A kilo of beef normally costs between Rs 220 to Rs 240 in the southern state but the price has gone up to Rs 280 to Rs 300 in the last couple of days, hotel owners said.“We are finding it difficult to serve beef cuisines at the old price. Since meat prices have gone up considerably we find it difficult to sustain,” A Azeez, secretary of the Hotel Restaurant Association, said.“Due to the price rise, many restaurants are forced to take beef out of the menu,” K Mohanan, a head-load worker in Chala market, said.Cattle traders attribute the price rise to the shortage in supply of the red meat but hoteliers and consumers said it was engineered deliberately to jack up the price. The traders said truck drivers refuse to carry animals from neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over fears of an attack by right-wing outfits. In Kerala, the annual demand for the red meat is around 2.3 lakh metric tonne. Since cattle are not reared in a big way in the state, animals are usually ferried from other states.“It is a fact that many truck drivers now refuse to carry cattle fearing attack. The state will face a severe shortage [of beef] if transportation is disrupted in the neighbouring states,” a spokesperson for the Kerala Cattle Merchants’ Association said.Last week’s notification, which banned the sale of cows, bulls, bullocks, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves, and camels in livestock markets for slaughter, has been fiercely opposed by several states such as Kerala and West Bengal.Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and all his counterparts, saying it was against the federal structure of the country.Regulating cattle trade is a state subject but animal welfare is overseen by the Centre.On Tuesday, the Madras high court ordered a four-week stay on the notification. Even as the court suspended it, the Centre said it was examining the points raised by several states.The government, however, denied trying to restrict food habits of the people through the notification that has led to protests and staging of beef festivals in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.Hindus consider the cow to be holy and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – has been pushing for a countrywide ban on cow slaughter.Critics say the rule violates individual rights and will hurt millions of cattle and meat traders.