Published in The Financial Express on Saturday, 8 August 2015.

Prices may rise abnormally due to bar on supply of Indian cattle

Ismail Hossain

The country’s livestock supply during upcoming Eid-ul-Azha would remain low and its prices would be abnormally higher if the government does not take any immediate action for importing cattle, sector insiders apprehend.

The local raw hide and skin traders are also in great worry as they said around 40 per cent more cattle would be sacrificed in the Eid-ul-Azha this year compared to previous holy occasions.

There is also a fear that many might not be able to sacrifice cattle during coming Eid-ul-Aza due to soaring prices and some may switch over to goat sacrifice.

Dhaka’s beef traders say the decline in imports of Indian cows has already impacted the market. In all the retail and wholesale markets, the price of cows has gone up by 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

Secretary General of Bangladesh Meat Traders Association Rabiul Alam said beef is being sold in some markets of the city at Tk 400 per kg.

He said, the beef demand was met by the local market over the past three months, but now the supply is dwindling.

“There is a grave concern that cattle prices would skyrocket during the coming Eid-ul-Azha,” he said.

Over the past five months, there has been a 30 per cent drop in cattle-heads crossing the border from India to Bangladesh as the BJP- led government in India is on a move to ban cow slaughter across India and go for strict action on illegal cow trading along Indo-Bangladesh borders.

According to the Bangladesh Raw Hide Merchants Association and Tanners Association of Bangladesh, nearly 12.0 million cattle are slaughtered in the country annually of which 7.0 million are cows.

Indian supply of cows to Bangladesh was 3.0-3.5 million pieces annually of which 2.0 million cows used to be brought on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha festival, according to the two leather-related associations.

Bangladeshi leather industries largely depend on raw hide collected during Eid-ul-Azha, leather industry insiders said.

“I expect around 2 million cattle to be sacrificed during this Eid which is less than half in number from the previous times,” Bangladesh Hide and Skin Merchants Association (BHSMA) President Ali Hossain told the FE on Friday.

He urged the government for taking immediate action to import cows from Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar if India does not officially export cattle-heads to Bangladesh.

However, experts differed with traders on the looming scarcity in leather sector during this Eid.

Additional Director (Research) at Centre for Policy Dialogue, Khandakar Golam Moazzem said theoretically the leather sector would not be affected much as there should be a balance in Indian supply of cows and finished leather export from Bangladesh.

Mr. Moazzem, who is carrying out research on cow trade, said Indian cattle meets 50 per cent of the country’s demand while Bangladesh exports 50 per cent of its finished leather.

“So there must be a balance but the price of sacrificial animals would rise astronomically,” he said.

He said talks are on with India to open up the cattle market, but the talks are getting complicated.

A source said the ministry of commerce has already proposed to India for cattle trading in border haats formally. The ministry is also in discussion with Nepal and Myanmar.

Khandakar Golam Moazzem said the time has come for Bangladesh to think of alternatives whether the country will import beef or meet the demand by other means.

“On the other hand, leather sector may import rawhides if they want,” he said adding the country has already been importing rawhides from Brazil and India.

“Cattle scarcity would remain in the country for a few years, but after that, the local production would be capable to meet the demand,” he added.




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