The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has set Tk100 and Tk150 as the toll for every cow and buffalo, respectively, for meat sellers who buy cattle from Gabtoli
Following bolstered market monitoring by authorities, the price of beef in Dhaka has returned to Tk525 per kg, after it had initially jumped to Tk660 from Tk500 at the start of Ramadan.
Although, traders say the price of beef could be even cheaper if they were not charged excessive tolls at the city’s only permanent cattle market in Gabtoli, the DNCC Estate Department—the market lessor and custodian—blamed traders for the price hike.
The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has set Tk100 and Tk150 as the toll for every cow and buffalo, respectively, for meat sellers who buy cattle from Gabtoli.
However, people who are not meat sellers are charged 3.5% of the price of a cow or buffalo as a toll by the lessee.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Rabiul Alam, president of Bangladesh Meat Traders’ Association (BMTA), said beef could be sold at a much more reasonable price than that set by the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC).
On May 6, the DSCC set the price of beef at Tk500–Tk525 per kg during Ramadan after a meeting with the BMTA, the Dhaka Metropolitan Meat Merchants Association, and other traders. DNCC also enforced the same price structure.
“However, the lessee, Lutfur Rahman, has been charging us several times higher than the amount fixed by DNCC,” said Rabiul.
He added that even until 2015, traders paid only Tk18 in tolls, which was raised in three phases to Tk100. "But even after that, we are being charged extra,” he complained.
The BMTA president claimed the DNCC Estate Department had turned a blind eye to the matter, affecting some 3,500 meat sellers in Dhaka.
“We want to sit with the city corporation authorities to discuss the excessive toll, but they seem uninterested,” he said, questioning how long Lutfur Rahman would be allowed to continue overcharging them.
He added that meat traders wanted the DNCC to intervene and get rid of this high toll.
Contacted, DNCC Chief Estate Officer, Md Aminul Islam, said they had neither received any complaints of extortion from cattle traders, nor of excessive tolls from meat traders.
“We suggested meat sellers send us receipts of the extra tolls, if any, but we have not received a single receipt yet,” he said.
The Gabtoli cattle market also has a management committee in place, which too did not receive any complaints, Aminul added.
Hinting at meat traders buying cattle on behalf of general customers, the DNCC official said they were trying to deprive the lessee of the real toll.
“If the lessee has to pay the DNCC around Tk20 crore annually as lease payment, why would he accept less money or allow meat traders to defraud him of the originally owed toll amount?” he questioned.
Denying the allegation of charging excessive tolls, Lutfur, who has been the market's lessee for 12 years now, said there is a committee and law enforcement to look into the matter.
“The meat traders are accusing me in their own self interest. They try to get a commission from non-traders by buying cows on their behalf,” he alleged.
Gabtoli lessee for 12 years in a row
Lutfur Rahman has been at the helm of the cattle market for the past 12 years.
“I have been selected as the lessee through a competitive bidding process and I have to pay around Tk18 crore per year as lease payment,” he said.
However, the Dhaka Tribune could not get a clear explanation from the DNCC Estate Department as to how the same person has been winning the tender for 12 years in a row.
Beef demand skyrocketing in Ramadan
BMTA President Rabiul said that usually, some 4,500 cows are slaughtered daily for Dhaka residents, until the 25th day of the Ramadan, when it soars to 5,500 cows between the 25th and 27th days of the holy month.
“Starting from the 28th day of Ramadan till Eid, as many as 10,000 cows are slaughtered,” he said, adding, each cow provides some 80kg of meat.