Cattle trade in Bangladesh is a very big event especially before the Muslim community's second most important religious festival, the Eid-ul-Adha. Cattle farmers across the country raise their cattle with an eye to the Eid-ul-Adha market. Local cattle farming for beef got a boost after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in May 2017 banned sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter in Indian markets. Though the Supreme Court of India in a rule in July that year suspended the ban, the cow vigilantes, mainly BJP supporters and activists, mounted their surveillance all over India to ensure that no cattle were bought and sold for slaughtering within that country. And the vigilantes have also been instrumental in reducing cross-border cattle-trade between India and Bangladesh to a great extent. This has been a blessing in disguise for Bangladeshi cattle farmers. For in the past, rearing of beef cattle in Bangladesh could not flourish due to easy availability of Indian cattle through cross-border trade as well as smuggling. But the ban on cow slaughter in India has resulted in a sharp fall in the supply of Indian cattle to Bangladesh. This has encouraged traditional cattle farmers as well as new investors in this sector to go for raising cows, especially as sacrificial animals before the Eid-ul-Adha. Small wonder that according to an estimate, some 700,000 cattle farms have been participating in this year's pre-Eid cattle markets, both online and physical, all over Bangladesh. And the number of sacrificial cattle heads available for sale this Eid-ul-Adha is around 11.9 million, according to the Department of Livestock (DLS). In fact, cattle farming for meat production has already turned into a sizeable industry. As such, the department of livestock has claimed that the country is now self-sufficient in sacrificial cattle for the Eid-ul-Adha.
Despite this good news about the supply of sacrificial cattle in the country, the surge in pandemic infection and the strict lockdown imposed to combat it have left cattle farmers greatly worried. Especially, the Covid situation has dashed the hopes of cattle farmers from outlying districts. In truth, their entire business plan is focused on selling their animals in the pre-Eid markets of the capital city as well as other divisional headquarters. And in normal times they make good profits from their sales of cattle in the city markets. But that is not going to happen this time, if only due to the pandemic-induced restriction on movement.
However, the government has created the alternative arrangement for selling the sacrificial animals online. In this context, the government is learnt to have asked all the deputy commissioners (DCs) to arrange online cattle marketing facility under their respective jurisdictions. Meanwhile, the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has launched its online (digital) cattle haat (market) with the target of selling one hundred thousand sacrificial animals during this Eid-ul-Adha. There are incentives like waiver of the 'hasil' (paying certain amount of toll by the buyers of sacrificial animals to the management of each cattle market) and a foolproof payment system for buyers of the animals.
Under this system, a person makes payment only after the animal so purchased online is delivered to the buyer's end to the full satisfaction of the latter. This is done digitally under a third-party payment system through an account (escrow account) held with the central bank. Along with the DNCC, some private e-commerce platforms have also joined the digital cattle marketing bandwagon.
The online marketing of cattle promises a hassle-free transaction of the sacrificial animals for both the buyers and the sellers. But the popularity of 'digital cattle haat' hinges on making the majority of the small cattle farmers and common buyers 'online literate'. The government, the larger e-commerce platforms and the media have a role to play in this respect.