The prices of cattle and other sacrificial animals including goat and sheep start galloping two to three weeks before Eid-ul Azha in the country. While it is almost axiomatic that prices will increase, urban buyers are usually concerned with the rate at which these hikes will occur.
In the past, livestock experts had noted that the increase in prices of cattle is strongly influenced by the rate of increase in prices of cattle feed.
Almost every year, the prices of cattle feed increase a month or two before Eid.
This year, the increase has been substantial. The price of a sack of roughage was Tk 800 during the first week of July this year. The price has reached Tk 1,250 by August 16. The prices of all types of fodder including wheat bran, soybean meal, straw, oil cake, granular rice, pulse powder and others have also increased between 30 to 50 per cent over the past few weeks.
It needs to be mentioned that earlier, most livestock farmers initiated the fattening process only a month or so before Eid. This was in contrast to recommendation by the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) to feed cattle a mixture of molasses, straw and urea at right proportions daily for a period of six months. The DLS had spread the recipe and ingredients for the process across the country for the benefit of farmers through awareness campaigns over the past few years.
But most farmers did not want to spend as much time on the cattle. In order to avoid the costs of feeding and looking after the cow, they sold off their cattle to traders. As traders had a lower window of time, prior to putting the cow up for sale at temporary cattle markets, they employed 'quick fix' cow fattening methods. These included the use of harmful medicines like antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids or other chemicals, which are unhealthy for cattle and the consumers who eat beef.
Such fattening procedures further increased the price of the cattle.
Fortunately, the illegal fattening processes have greatly reduced over the past two years. Thanks to persistent awareness campaigns and strong monitoring by the DLS, more cattle farmers are opting for organic fattening processes for cows.
Cattle farmers are also realising that by providing better quality cattle and other sacrificial animals to the local market, they can finally gain a competitive edge over cheaper cattle coming from Myanmar, India and Nepal.
Through such steps, the authorities have managed to put up a fight against the main driver for cattle price hike, ahead of Eid-ul Azha.
To gain more control of the situation, the authorities can focus their attentions to checking additional reasons for cattle price hike. These include extortion at various levels that the traders face on the way to the cattle market and exorbitant transport costs especially prior to Eid.
Additionally, a tendency to hold cattle and sell during the very last days before Eid, tends to increase prices. The artificial scarcity created by a group of unscrupulous traders has usually been blamed in the years when cattle prices reached abnormal levels.
As for this year, there is a fear among urban buyers that the prices of cattle would reach new heights. Government departments have already assured that there will be no such hike as the supply of cattle is adequate to meet the local demand.
According to the fisheries and livestock ministry, 11.60 million sacrificial animals are available this year, compared to 10.40 million last year. These include 4.4 million cattle and 7.1 million goats and sheep.
In 2017, nearly 11.5 million cattle were sacrificed across the country.
DLS experts have pointed out that though the supply was fewer than the demand last year, the price of cattle was still within an affordable range for buyers. They also noted that this had happened even when the price of cattle feed had also increased last year.
As such, an unnatural hike in price of cattle is less likely.
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