Bangladesh farmers fear the domestic cattle market will be flooded with cows from India ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, despite local farmers having reared a sufficient number of animals to meet the seasonal demand.
That is because of the decision by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to open the Bangladesh-India corridors for transnational cattle trade, which has dampened the hope of many farmers like Mohammad Imran Hossain, the owner of Sadeeq Agro in Dhaka.
Sadeeq Agro sold 326 cows out of 351 during last year’s Eid-ul-Azha and it has raised 600 bulls for this year’s festival, shifting 300 by the start of August.
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Official figures show local farmers have grown a sufficient number of cattle against the season's demand Rajib Dhar
“The BGB’s announcement has brought down the sale figure to zero now,” he said.
“Customers are waiting for the relatively less expensive Indian cattle to arrive on the market.”
Imran Hossain - who is also the president of Bangladesh Dairy Farmers’ Association - said the majority of the suppliers to the Eid-ul-Azha cattle market are the marginal farmers who are still reeling from the recent monsoon floods.
“The decision to import Indian cattle had just added to their woes,” he said.
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DLS data shows that there are 525,000 farms across the country in which 54.6 million animals are raised, with 11.6 million of them raised for Eid-ul-Azha Rajib Dhar
During the last three years, local farmers have received fair prices due to the embargo on Indian cattle.
When asked about the local farmers’ opposition to the decision to lift the embargo, BGB Director General Major General Abul Hossain appealed to the forces of supply and demand.
“Let the market be free in this matter,” he said. “If local farmers properly manage to distribute cattle across the country, no one would buy the Indian ones.”
The BGB chief said while announcing the decision at a press briefing on August 2 that traders from both Bangladesh and India could trade cattle legally through the corridors under the BGB’s conditions.
“We have said that traders from the both sides will go to the zero line using the corridors. They [the Indians] will leave the cows at the zero line and traders from the Bangladesh side will collect them there,” said Major General Abul Hussain.
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During the last three years, the local farmers got fair prices due to the bar on Indian cattle Rajib Dhar
Usually, Indian cows enter Bangladesh in small numbers throughout the year using legal and illegal channels. According to BGB sources, a total of around 450,000 cows arrived during the January-July period in 2017.
However, the vast majority of cattle arrives ahead of Eid-ul-Azha. Our Correspondents from Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Jessore, Benapole and Satkhira report that a huge number of cows have already entered the country through the corridors.
“In July alone, 68,501 cows entered through two corridors of Chapainawabganj while the number in August stands at 59,631 so far,” said Md Roisuddin, revenue officer of Chapainawabganj Customs.
Every year over 5 million cows are sacrificed across the country during Eid-ul-Azha. Four in every five of these are supplied by local farmers, with the rest of the demand met by cattle from Myanmar and India, according to the Department of Livestock Services (DLS).
DLS data shows that of the 54.6 million animals reared on 525,000 farms across the country, 11.6 million of them are reared for Eid-ul-Azha. In 2016, a total of 10.5 million animals were sacrificed and this year, the DLS estimates the number will rise to 11.5 million.
“There is an adequate number of (locally-reared) animals to meet the demand,” DLS Director General Ainul Haque said.
Bangladesh Meat Merchants’ Association Secretary General Robiul Alam said: “To control the meat market we have to reduce the dependency on foreign cattle.”