Nature Quest: Snake farm awaits govt nod for 3yrs
As a young man, while working in Saudi Arabia as a newspaper photographer for several years, Abdur Razzak of Nandipara village in Patuakhali Sadar upazila, considered his future. Like many expatriate workers in the Middle East, he wondered what he could do upon returning to Bangladesh. Razzak, now 40, was then a wildlife photographer for the newspaper, and it was through his employment that an idea presented itself: he thought to establish a snake farm.
With initial exposure through his job, Razzak followed up with online research. He communicated with experts to better understand the industry and further consider the merits of his dream project, which, he assessed, could make substantial profits with only modest start capital required.
After returning to Bangladesh in 2000 he began to plan. "I tried to generate government interest in allowing the initiative," says Razzak, "and finally in 2008 the livestock department issued a circular on snake farming."
Aware that snake venom is an ingredient in huge demand from medical companies for use in producing anti-venom snake bite treatments and anticipating timely government approval, Razzak started his farm in 2009, at a cost of 25 lakh, with 150 snakes of various species collected from across the country.
Today the farm boasts around 400 snakes, with Razzak having successfully bred them. He believes he could accrue at least Tk 7 crore in earnings per month selling venom, as well as creating a number of job opportunities for others, if the farm was operational. Razzak has already partially-trained some 8 staff members for the project.
But the government approval has not been forthcoming. "I applied for permission for the farm and to sell venom in 2011," he says. "To date it hasn't happened."
Patuakhali Sadar upazila livestock officer, Dr Golam Kabir, says he visited the snake farm in December 2012 and sent his report to higher authorities recommending the project's approval and for permission to sell venom to be granted.
"It's an exceptional farm," says Kabir, "I think there's a good chance it would be profitable."
While the government circular stated a decision would be made within three months of receipt of a visit report, over three years later this is yet to occur.
"Many medical companies have already inquired," says Razzak, "They want to buy venom from my farm but as I have no approval, I can't sell it."
"If the government took positive steps on snake farming, many farms could be established in Bangladesh and it could bring substantial economic benefits," he adds.
In the meantime, the 400 snakes at Razzak's farm wait to be milked commercially, to donate their venom to, ultimately, save human lives.