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CPD study on cattle trade cited

According to the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), the number of cattle in Bangladesh was 22.67 million in FY2004. The number has increased to 23.49 million in FY2014 showing only 0.40 per cent of growth.

Published in The Financial Express on Wednesday, 9 September 2015.

Bangladesh faces dire livestock crisis

India deploys 30,000 troops along Bangladesh border to stop cattle smuggling

According to the Department of Livestock Services, the projected population of the country’s livestock and poultry rose to 52.84 million and 288.57 million respectively in 2011 and 2012. The livestock sector has a huge contribution towards meeting Bangladesh’s daily protein requirements, although its share in the gross domestic product (GDP) is nominal. Several initiatives have been taken for the development of indigenous livestock – production and distribution of vaccine for livestock and poultry, cheap supply of duckling and chicks, artificial insemination extension programme, increased production of semen, artificial foetus transfer technology, prevention and control of anthrax, avian influenza and foot or mouth diseases.

This year, the absence of adequate supply of indigenous livestock in the Bangladeshi market has caused a sharp increase in beef prices at 40 to 50 per cent against the backdrop of insufficient supply of cattle from neighbouring India. Since the domestic supply of Bangladesh can meet only 50 per cent of its demand, the country has been largely dependent on India for many years. Currently, India’s Border Security Force (BSF) has instructed its 30,000 personnel guarding the Indo-Bangladesh border – stop the illegal crossing of Indian cattle into Bangladesh! Every night, BSF troops wade through jute and paddy fields and swim across ponds to chase ageing bovines and smugglers heading for Bangladesh.

India’s recent crackdown on the supply of its indigenous livestock to Bangladesh testifies how the country’s domestic policies cause an economic impact on its neighbours. Annually, two million Indian cattle are smuggled into Bangladesh with a trade volume of $600 million. In the absence of a legal trading agreement for sufficient number of cattle to be exported to Bangladesh from India, this illegal trade has flourished over the past four decades since 1971. Nevertheless, Indian premier Narendra Modi wants to put an end to it. While visiting India’s border with Bangladesh last spring, the country’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh called on BSF to halt cattle smuggling.

The Indian state of West Bengal shares a border of 2,216 kilometres with Bangladesh. Since there is no trade agreement between the two countries to export adequate number of cattle from India to Bangladesh, the border is a safe haven for cattle-smugglers. This year, BSF troops have seized 90,000 cattle and caught 400 smugglers (both Indian and Bangladeshi nationals) so far. According to the traders who operate auctions in order to facilitate the sale of cattle to slaughter houses, beef processing units, tanneries and bone crushing factories – livestock sector contributes 3.0 per cent to the country’s $190 billion economy. Besides, Bangladesh should find new sources of beef because India would stick to its stance.

The affect of  India’s No to Cattle Export policy in Bangladesh’s GDP is not yet known, although there is no doubt that the country’s beef trade and leather industry are suffering. Bangladesh’s top beef exporter Bengal Meat admits that it had to cut international orders by 75 per cent. Yearly, the company exports 125 tones of beef to Gulf countries. Since the price of cows has increased up to 40 per cent this year, Bengal Meat has been forced to close two processing units while it plans to import cows from Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar to meet domestic demand. Yet, the company has confessed that Indian cows have better quality meat and raw hide. The president of Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) said that 30 out of 190 tanneries had suspended works due to the lack of hides and 4,000 workers are currently jobless.

Nevertheless, Bangladesh can meet its domestic demand for beef with a government strategy. In Bangladesh, the cattle population is 6.0 million and half of it has been brought under artificial insemination programme for improved variety. The artificial insemination of cattle is a feasible step in livestock development. Semen is collected from the bulls reared inside the Central Cattle Breeding Station at Savar in Dhaka. Afterwards, the semen is processed in both liquid and frozen varieties to run the artificial insemination extension programme. The number of inseminated cows stood at 2.7 million in FY 2012.

A former director-general of the Department of Livestock Services has opined that an average variety of indigenous cattle weighs 80 to 100 kilograms after three years of rearing whereas an improved variety of cattle weighs 700 to 800 kilograms after the same period. The local variety of cattle gives 1.50 to 2.00 litres of milk per day while the improved variety gives 50 to 60 litres of milk. The cattle crisis is likely to ease after three years if everything goes well. The secretary-general of Bangladesh Meat Business Association (BMBA) has suggested that Bangladesh can meet local demand for cattle if commercial reproduction of cattle is encouraged by the government.

According to the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), the number of cattle in Bangladesh was 22.67 million in FY2004. The number has increased to 23.49 million in FY2014 showing only 0.40 per cent of growth. The growth of buffalo was 2.4 per cent, sheep 2.6 per cent and goat 2.9 per cent. The growth of poultry was 3.4 per cent. Fish production has risen by 4.84 per cent in FY2014. The percentage of cattle out of total livestock was 51 per cent in FY2004 and it dropped to 44 per cent in FY2014. The contribution of the livestock sector to GDP at constant prices was 2.58 per cent in FY2010 while the estimated contribution to GDP from this sector dropped at 2.50 per cent in FY2012.

During the Eid al-Adha, the cowherds of the country incur losses as Indian cattle enter the country through illegal channels. Therefore, the government should emphasise the rearing of an improved variety of cattle within the country to meet domestic demands. It should also take appropriate measures to overcome Bangladesh’s dependence on India for cattle in the future.

The writer is a retired professor of economics, BCS General Education Cadre.


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