Industry insiders fear that the initial target of the rawhide collection will not be met
In a repeat of previous years, the policies framed by the Commerce Ministry to ensure fair rawhide prices during Eid-ul-Azha tumbled as it benefitted the tanners and rawhide merchants more than it did the seasonal traders.
As a result, low prices offered by merchants left the traders helpless, most of whom abandoned their collected rawhides on the roadside or down the drains.
Industry insiders fear that the initial target of the rawhide collection will not be met.
Talking to several seasonal traders, this correspondent learned that they could not sell rawhide, even at the price fixed by the government.
On July 15, the ministry had declared during a stakeholder meeting that the price of cattle rawhide has been increased from last year by Tk5 per square feet, at Tk40-45 against Tk35-40 per sq ft last year.
Cattle rawhide outside of the capital has been set to Tk33-37 per square feet.
Goatskin prices were also increased by Tk2 per sq ft, to Tk15-16 per sq ft.
Generally, rawhides available from each big cow are up to 45 square feet long while rawhides from small cows are up to 20 square feet long.
The tanneries were supposed to buy salted rawhide of large cattle at Tk1,800 and skins of small cattle at Tk800.
The seasonal traders were supposed to get Tk500-1,000 for each salted rawhide, excluding the price of salt, other expenses and the profit of the storekeepers.
But all the cows, both big and small, have been sold by the rawhide sellers of the capital for only Tk250-500, less than half of the government-fixed rate.
However, fixing the price of rawhide and the syndicate are not only the only reasons for the reduction of rawhide collection this year.
According to statistics, at least 1-1.5 million fewer animals were sacrificed this year than usual.
This year, 9.09 million animals were sacrificed all across the country. Of those, 4.05 million were cows and buffaloes, 5.04 million were goats and sheep, and the remaining 715 were cattle.
Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock Iftekhar Hossain confirmed this information to the media on Saturday.
Another reason for the decline in rawhide collection seems to be the decline in the number of sacrifices, said Md Muslim Uddin, president of the Chittagong Rawhide Merchant Cooperative Association.
“I saw a similar situation last year. People do not have enough money to afford sacrificial animals. As a result, the number of skins has also been reduced. Earlier, I have collected up to 450,000 skins,” he added.
“So far, 150,000 skins have been delivered to our storekeepers. We saved it with salt. Another 150,000 skins have been stored by the traders in the surrounding districts,” he further said.
Meanwhile, in the last few days, a picture of negligence of the people sacrificing and seasonal traders has come to light in front of this correspondent.
Usually, the skins of sacrificial animals are collected from house to house by seasonal traders and madrasa/orphanages. They sell the rawhides to the storekeepers.
From there, the rawhides go to the tannery. The Ministry of Commerce has fixed the price at which the tannery owners will collect the skins of the sacrificial animals from the storekeepers.
The people from madrasas and orphanages have not shown much interest in collecting rawhide for free as two main rawhide merchants - warehouse keepers and tannery owners - have decided how much to buy from each other without deciding how much money the people can get by selling the rawhides.
As a result, the seasonal traders did not get the price even after collecting the unsalted rawhide quickly and taking it to the biggest rawhide yard of the capital.
There are allegations that the bargaining continued till late at night but the storekeepers closed the warehouse on the pretext of 'rotting' at the last minute.
As a result, seasonal traders were forced to leave their rawhide on the side of the road without finding a way. They mentioned that they had to count heavy losses.
Hundreds of damaged skins were found lying on the main road in front of several warehouses around Old Dhaka's Posta and Dhakeswari temples from Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon. Later, the cleaners of Dhaka City Corporation took them as waste.
The truth of the incident also came up in the statement of Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Barrister Fazle Nur Taposh.
“While seasonal traders collected hides, they may not have been able to sell those skins. Since this morning, we have noticed that in different places, in front of our sewers, they left those skins,” he told reporters on Thursday after observing the animal waste removal activities.
However, the storekeepers do not want to accept the allegation of offering a lower price or wasting time. They accused seasonal traders of bringing rotten rawhides.
In this regard, Aftab Khan, president of Bangladesh Hide and Skin Merchant Association, an organization of Dhaka warehouse keepers, told Dhaka Tribune that the skin has been well preserved with salt all over the country, including Dhaka this time.
While there has been some change in prices at the field level. And as the price of rawhide outside Dhaka is a bit lower, many people have come to Dhaka late at night without salt.
“Many people have lost the rawhides due to them being without salt for a long time. We could not save them,” he added.