Farmers feel the pinch of reduced prices of beef
With traders cutting prices of beef, cattle traders are offering lower prices to farmers.
Take the case of Pabna, one of the top cattle farming belts in the country, where cattle farmers are receiving Tk 22,000-Tk 23,000 for each maund (37 kilogrammes) of beef, down from Tk 24,000-25,000 per maund a couple of months ago.
Falling demand in the face of stubborn inflation and an increased supply of domestically-reared and smuggled cattle are reasons behind the recent decline in prices of beef at both the consumer and farmer end.
In such a situation, many cattle farmers said they were compelled to sell their cows at prices that did not meet their production costs in order to bear expenses.
Md Saiful Islam, a cattle farmer from the Faridpur upazila of Pabna, said he wanted to sell five cows last month.
"Unfortunately I did not sell a single cow due to poor prices," said the farmer, who has 30 cows in his farm. Most of them are milk-producing cows while he rears around 10 for beef production.
Islam said he spends Tk 24,000-Tk 25000 to produce each maund of meat, but meat traders were offering him up to Tk 22,000 for each maund.
It costs around Tk 100,000-120,000 to rear each cattle. However, the current market price is around Tk 80,000- Tk 100,000.
"Due to the poor prices, I could not sell any cattle," he said.
Like him, Md Raju, a cattle farmer from Jalalpur village, has halted sales of cattle.
Shah Emran, general secretary of the Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association, which represents 16,000-plus dairy farmers in the country, said farmers could not afford to sell their cattle at low prices.
"It won't happen because it's a business. As the demand is reduced, in this situation they are being forced to sell at a lower price," he said.
Speaking to The Daily Star, cattle farmers from Pabna and Sirajganj said they were struggling to maintain their farms as they were spending more than they were earning.
"Feed price has been soaring. Each bag of bran costs Tk 1,800, up from Tk 1,700 a month ago. While feed price is increasing, meat price is declining. So, we are struggling to manage costs," said Md Raju Ahmed, a marginal cattle farmer of the Ramkharua village in Sirajganj's Shahzadpur upazila.
"We need to spend Tk 24,000-25,000 to produce each maund of meat, but we are getting only Tk 20,000-22,000 back. So, it's hard to maintain cattle farms," he said.
Raju sold 10 small cows for a total of Tk 5 lakh last month, which represented a loss of Tk 1 lakh when feed costs were factored in.
"If I want to maintain them, I have to spend a huge amount. But it is uncertain whether I can recoup my production costs. So, I sold them in order to get some relief from maintenance costs," Raju said.
Given the volatility in prices, the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection (DNCRP) held a meeting with traders and farmers yesterday to coordinate the issue so that consumers and traders get a fair price.
In the meeting, DNCRP DG AHM Shafiquzzaman said that work was being done to ensure that consumers were not harmed by unusual prices.
In the end, it was decided that all the parties of the traders, including the Bangladesh Meat Traders Association and Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association, would sit on Wednesday and decide on the price of beef.
In the meeting, Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission Deputy Director Mahmodul Hasan said that there should be a survey of who is selling which grade of meat and the price should be determined accordingly.
Meanwhile, cattle farmers and traders said sales of beef declined in recent times due to the prevailing economic crises in the country alongside various local fish becoming cheaper.
Another reason for the price drop was due to the easy availability of cheap Indian and Myanmar cattle. They added that prices also came down recently due to the arrival of frozen meat from India through informal channels.
According to data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, food inflation stood at 12.56 percent in October this year, the highest in at least a decade.
An analysis of the state-run Trading Corporation of Bangladesh's retail beef prices for the last five months shows that beef was sold at an average price of Tk 765 per kg from August to November.
But on the 3rd of December, prices decreased and beef was being sold at an average of Tk 675 per kg, it said.
Robiul Alam, secretary general of the Bangladesh Meat Merchant Association, told The Daily Star that the price per kg of beef was Tk 320 in 2018 and had increased to Tk 800 in 2023.
It has decreased by Tk 100 per kg in the past month, he informed.
He attributed the fall in price to the fact that meat consumption had decreased and the supply of meat in the market had increased.
Md Reajul Huq, director for admin of the Department of Livestock Services, said it is natural that the price of beef will decrease when other sources of protein are available in the market at lower prices.
Apart from this, the prices of proteins fall at this time of the year due to the availability of various winter vegetables in the market, he said.