Bangladesh has enough cattle to meet the demand during the coming Eid-ul-Azha but buyers are likely to face higher prices for sacrificial animals.
Farmers say soaring prices of feed have increased the cattle rearing cost and they have no scope but to ask for higher prices.
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There are also concerns that spiralling inflation and recurrent floods in the northeast and northwest regions will dampen sales.
“Overall, it is a difficult situation. Our rearing cost has risen while inflation is biting. People do not have money,” said Md Rakibur Rahman, managing director Nahar Agro, which has 1,600 heads of cattle, in Chattogram.
Last year, devotees slaughtered nearly 91 lakh cattle to perform their religious duties, the lowest in five years as many people could not take part for budget constraints amid Covid-19-induced income losses.
For the current year, Bangladesh has 1.21 crore animals available for Eid-ul-Azha and farmers, traders and the Department of Livestock Services say the number is adequate to meet the demand for the event.
However, the number of farmers rearing cattle has declined by 2 per cent year-on-year to 6.81 lakh this year as many had to quit amid soaring production costs and the pandemic.
Farmers rear and fatten bulls and other animals to profit from high demand during Eid-ul-Azha, which accounts for half of the total cattle sacrificed in the country annually and provides key raw materials for the nearly $1 billion export-earning leather and footwear industry.
“We have a good stock of cattle. The problem is the cost of ingredients of cattle feed has gone up globally and it has increased our cost,” said Mohammad Imran Hossain, president of the Bangladesh Dairy Farmers’ Association (BDFA).
Prices of cattle are likely to be higher this year than the previous year, he said. “Otherwise, any crisis is unlikely.”
However, the demand for animals for Eid-ul-Azha did not pick up until the mid-last week.
Hossain said advance sales and booking at his farm, Sadeeq Agro, have been low this year compared to the previous year.
“We could sell 60 per cent of bulls two weeks ahead of Eid last year. This year, we have so far been able to get advance booking for 30 per cent of the bulls.”
It appears that sales will start to pick up by the end of this week and onwards as job-holders will get salaries after the month closes.
Anikuzzaman Razu, owner of Mondol International Ltd, a cattle trading firm based in the Gabtali cattle market in Dhaka, said the cheerfulness that was seen in the previous year is absent this year.
The transport cost has also increased.
Shah Mohammad Emran, general secretary of BDFA, said buyers may be waiting for the opening of cattle markets for Eid-ul-Azha to get an idea about prices as inflation has strained their wallets.
“Inflation has hit directly on the wallets of people,” he said, fearing that demand for cattle may decline if the flood situation worsens.
Mir Kashem Ali, owner of Marsh Agro, a cattle and dairy farm in Faridpur, said he was planning to try online sales as responses until the mid-last week were low.
He could sell only three bulls through advance booking.
Golam Raheed, a dairy farmer in the northern division Rajshahi, said flood in the northeast region may impact the overall demand for cattle.
“We have seen in the past a good demand for cows from the Sylhet region during the festival. Demand from the region has been low until now as survival has become challenging because of floods,” he said.
“So, it is very difficult to predict how the market will be this year.”
BDFA President Imran, however, hoped that the total number of cattle to be slaughtered this year would be higher than last year as the economy is recovering from sluggishness.