The burgeoning population of cattle and other ruminant animals in the country has hardly benefited the consumers as the price of meat has been on the rise steadily.
The prices of beef and mutton surged by more than 103 per cent despite a sharp rise in the country's cattle population during the period from fiscal year (FY) 2008-09 (FY) to FY 2018-19, thanks to great efforts of commercial and marginal farmers.
Prices of beef in the country are 32 per cent higher than the global average, suggest the recent data of the World Bank.
Consumers and sector insiders also claim that the prices of beef and mutton here are higher than in any other country of the world.
The cattle, sheep and goat population increased to 55.52 million in FY '19 from 49.55 million in FY '09, according to the Department of Livestock Services (DLS).
The total livestock population (both ruminant and non-ruminant) reached about 402.56 million in FY '19.
The share of livestock in the agriculture sector's gross domestic product (GDP) stood at 13.46 per cent in the FY 2019. The size of the livestock economy was estimated at Tk 432.12 billion, according to the DLS, with its contribution to the GDP estimated at 1.47 per cent.
The livestock is now creating jobs for 20 per cent of the total population directly and 50 per cent indirectly, the data available with the DLS show.
A total of 70,981 cattle farms registered with the DLS until August 2019, show the data of the department. Of the total, about 59,274 were dairies, 4,201 goat-rearing farms and 3,753 sheep farms.
About 226 feed factories across the country registered with the DLS until August 2019. Of them, 84 got their registration renewed.
Shah Emran, general secretary of Bangladesh Dairy Farmers' Association (BDFA), said educated and young entrepreneurs remaining jobless for a long time ventured into this industry and helped it grow consistently.
The farmers will be able to provide beef at prices less by 20 to25 per cent of the existing rates in line with the international market, if they get proper support, he said.
The government should include the industry in the low electricity and gas billing segment like the agricultural sector and the cattle feed prices should be lower, he suggested.
The government also should provide the dairy farmers with subsidy and loans and duty-free facility to import fodder, he added.
The government can distribute subsidised cattle feed among the farmers through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), take immediate steps to remove all complexities impeding unloading of fodder at all ports and also provide incentives and loans to produce grass and other green fodder, the BDFA general secretary further added.
Dr. Sharif Ahmed Chowdhury, former chief scientific officer at Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), said the Indian government's restrictions on cross-border cattle movement since 2014 have incentivised the local farmers in rearing the ruminant animals for meat.
Dr. Md. Giasuddin, Head of Animal Health Research Division and Director at National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza (OIE Reference Laboratory) of BLRI, said outbreak of the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) among cattle has been causing heavy losses to the farmers as it is increasing drastically year-on-year.
The farmers are currently incurring losses to the tune of Tk 160 billion per year due to the endemic disease which has been impeding both cattle rearing and fattening, he told the FE.
Talking to the FE, Dr ABM Khaleduzzaman, DLS assistant director (farm), said the DLS's appropriate policy and other measures helped the industry grow consistently.
The country was able to meet the Eid-time demand for cattle in the last three years without any cattle smuggled in. It was possible due to the great efforts of marginal and commercial farmers here, he said.
However, the FMD and mastitis now remain two dreaded diseases which are afflicting a good number of cattle in the country, causing heavy financial losses to the farmers annually, he said.
The department has undertaken a project to eradicate the FMD, mastitis and PPR (peste des petits ruminants), which is also known as 'goat plague', from the country, the DLS assistant director said.
The project will also help increase production of vaccines that will reduce the shortage, he expressed his hope.
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