Farmers in a remote village selling cattle online
For decades, traditional haats had been the main place for Bangladesh's farmers and traders for selling bulls ahead of Eid-ul-Ahza, one of the biggest festivals for Muslims when demand for sacrificial animals surges.
That dependence has begun to reduce as digital devices and internet networks offer a window to digital marketplaces.
Nationally, online markets for cattle have mushroomed over the last couple of years to offer a respite to urban buyers from the hassle of visiting crowded cattle haats to buy sacrificial animals for Eid.
Now, farmers have come up.
In a remote village named Haropara of northwest district Pabna, livestock farmers and traders are selling their reared cattle through online platforms in order to avoid the hassle of visiting haats or bazars in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak and its spread.
Md Ashraful Alam, a small cattle farmer of the village under Pabna, one of the biggest dairy and livestock farming districts, is one of them.
He sold all three bulls he reared through an online platform maintained by one of his peers. They took photos and recorded videos of the bulls and posted those on YouTube and Facebook for sale.
"It provides a lot of relief from hassles. I do not need to count extra costs for transporting cattle from one haat to another," he said.
Alam is one of over 150 livestock farmers who have sold their bulls online. Until midday yesterday, they could sell nearly 3,500 bulls out of 4,000 online.
The sales figure is insignificant when it comes to total sales of cattle nationally through haats and also through online marketplace developed and operated under the government patronage to enable people to buy animals by avoiding physical contacts and prevent spread of the contagious virus.
Until yesterday, roughly 3.50 lakh cattle were sold through online platforms at Tk 2,424 crore through the online markets tracked by the Department of Livestock Services (DLS).
Farmers of Haropara village of Pabna expected that the rest of the 500 bulls will be sold online before the Eid.
Md Shahabul Islam, a cattle trader in Pabna's Haropara, said he used to sell cattle in local haats a few years ago and often did not get the expected profits due to the hassles of cattle market.
Now, he is free of tension.
"I often buy cows from local farmers and outside of the village a month before Eid-ul-Azha and go for nourishing the animal. Then I take photos and videos of the animal and upload it onto Facebook and YouTube under the name of my cattle farm, ABC Farm, including my cellphone numbers," Sahabul said.
"If the buyers like an animal they see, they contact me. If I get the expected price then I give my word on the sale. Buyers, however, send us money through banks and then I send the animal to the desired address on a vehicle," he added.
"If anybody wants to keep the cattle in my farm, then we take an extra charge of Tk 3,000 for maintenance per month," he said.
Sahabul has nine bulls in his farm. He, however, bought 10 more last week and sold at least 15 till Friday.
Md Abdul Kader, who started selling cattle of his farm online since 2017, said he has sold almost 2,000 bulls online from this village.
"Now we are expecting to sell more this year as many people are dependent on online markets owing to the alarming Covid situation," he said.
Kader has 117 fattened cattle. Of them, he sold 110 till Friday. He said big cattle traders and industrialists were the key buyers of online markets.
Once the animals are sold, these are transported to the place opted for by buyers on trucks.
"Big traders or their representatives are coming to our village after viewing the animals at our online platform and complete deals through electronic transactions," he said.
Md Johurul Islam, acting livestock officer of Vangura upazila in Pabna, said cattle farmers and traders of Haropara village have set an example of digital marketing.
"Due to the alarming spread of coronavirus, we always request everybody to operate cattle markets following health guidelines but nobody does. We have encouraged cattle farmers to sell on online platforms. Farmers of Haropara village have set an example through their own initiatives," he said.