Cattle farmers and traders now fear that they might suffer massive losses this year
Eid means an abundance of everything in Bangladesh. People indulge in a spending spree and the velocity of money gets very high everywhere – from urban to rural areas during the two Eid festivals every year.
But this year the scene is the reverse as the coronavirus pandemic continues its onslaught on lives and livelihoods of millions even five months into the crisis.
After taking away smiles of retailers – from clothing to footwear, beauty products, and so on – who depend for half or more of their businesses on Eid-ul Fitr and Pahela Baishakh, Covid-19 is poised to ravage the lives of around 70,000 cattle farmers who had waited for the season to sell sacrificial animals.
"Many farmers will be in hardship as they will not be able to spend for cattle rearing for another year," said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
The ongoing monsoon floods in 31 districts out of 64 have appeared as an extra burden on them.
In this situation, the researcher thinks the export of live animals and meat could save farmers from heavy losses.
According to the department of livestock and fisheries, there are about 1.18 crore cattle ready for sacrifice during this year's Qurbani. Of them, 45.38 lakh are cows and buffaloes while the rest are goats and sheep.
Officials said last year the country witnessed sales of around 1 crore cattle. If this year's sales go down by 30 percent, nearly 50 lakh cattle will remain unsold, causing sufferings to farmers with their rearing issue.
In terms of monetary transactions, the amount will be lower at least by Tk10,000 crore, given the average price of a cow is Tk50,000 and of a goat is Tk8,000.
Shah Imran, general secretary at the Bangladesh Dairy Farmers' Association, told The Business Standard that many villagers are going to share cattle for sacrifice during Eid-ul-Adha. Slaughtering of animals in front of many apartments in Dhaka is also prohibited. Hence, their sales will be 30 to 35 percent lower than usual, resulting in huge pressure on farmers who have raised their cows for a long time in the hope of fetching profits."
Moreover, floods have affected them in such a way that if they cannot sell cattle, it will not be possible for them to run their families. They are now left with no option but to sell those at low prices, he added.
Traders have also not bought much from farmers from the beginning amid an uncertainty over profits.
While talking to The Business Standard, sellers at a cattle market in the capital's Aftabnagar area said there is enough supply in the market but the turnout of customers is feeble. The presence of buyers is 30-40 percent lower than in previous years, causing a drop in cattle prices because of low demand.
Cattle farmers and traders now fear that they might suffer massive losses this year.
Hasanul Islam, a cattle trader from Bogura, wants to sell a cow for Tk1.80 lakh, but customers are not offering more than Tk1.30 lakh for it.
Akkas Ali, another cattle trader from Chuadanga, said he did not want to come to Dhaka at first, envisaging poor sales and low prices of cows in the present situation. What he anticipated is now reality – he is having to sell his cattle at low prices.
Cattle sell at high prices online
Online marketplaces for sacrificial cattle have got much attention from the beginning to ensure social distancing at this time of Covid-19. Cattle farm owners are trying to sell cattle digitally by posting adverts on social media sites such as Facebook.
Besides, Digital Haat launched on July 11 was initiated by Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and e-Commerce Association Bangladesh (e-CAB. Every day many entrepreneurs have been joining this digital cattle market.
Around 100 companies with 4,000 cows of different varieties and sizes are connected with the DNCC's digital haat.
Buyers, however, complained that they are charging higher prices than that set by e-CAB.
Russel Agro, an online selling company, has ranged the price for an Australian bull weighing 195kg at Tk1.15 lakh, meaning per kg at Tk590.
Saudagor Enterprise has priced a local crossbred cow weighing 600kg at over Tk3.46 lakh with per kg costing Tk577.
The e-CAB said they have set prices for a small cow at Tk375 per kg, a medium one at Tk425 and a big cow at Tk475. However, on some occasion, prices might rise depending on colour and size.
Refrigerator sales go down by 30%-40%
Refrigerator makers had been passing a very good time for the past several years with a steady rise in their sales.
According to market players, all the companies together sold around 25 lakh units of refrigerators in 2019. Of the number, 50 percent were sold during the Eid festival.
"We sold 10 lakh units last year. We have set the target to sell 6 lakh units this year," said a senior official of Walton, the largest player in the refrigerator industry in the country.
He said the pandemic has brought down the business by 30 percent to 40 percent this year.
Other local companies, such as Marcel, Jamuna, Minister and Vision echoed the same. Foreign brands, including LG, Sharp, Singer Whirlpool and others are facing more slump in their sales as the prices of their items are higher than those of the local brands, market players said.
Transporters are on a roller coaster
Some estimates show that 40 lakh to 50 lakh people leave Dhaka to enjoy Eid with their near and dear ones. They travel by bus, train and river vessels. The majority use buses.
Bus owners said this year they are getting a maximum 30 percent of passengers as many city dwellers have refrained from travelling due to the coronavirus.