Every year before Eid-ul-Azha, the cattle markets bustle with people; excitement fills the air while haggling commences in full force. The smelly, yet lively haats are the place to be; the animals -- sights to behold.
But it's not the same this year.
With only three days left for Eid, only half the number of cattle has arrived at the market in comparison to previous years, said traders. Fear of not getting a reasonable price and lack of buyers due to the pandemic situation are some of the major reasons, they added.
Also, many cattle farmers and traders who are able to rear their cattle for one more year did not show up at markets amid the circumstances.
These correspondents visited at least six cattle markets yesterday -- Dhupkhola, near Sadeque Hossain Khoka Playground, Gabtoli, Aftabnagar, Kachukhet and Meradia markets -- and found 30 to 50 percent less number of sacrificial animals this year.
Even though 17 cattle markets have been set up under the two city corporations this year, which is 10 less than last year, the numbers are still poor.
The lessees hope that the number of cattle will increase in the remaining couple of days, if there is sufficient number of buyers.
Dr Abdul Zabbar Shikdar, director general of the Department of Livestock, in the first week of this month told The Daily Star that this year, 1.19 crore cattle have been reared targeting Eid-ul-Azha, exceeding last year's demand by 10 lakh.
He said last year 1.18 crore animals were reared but around 1.09 crore were slaughtered during the three-day festival. "But the main challenge is selling the cattle in different markets while maintaining social distance and following health guidelines," the DG said.
Robiul Alam, secretary general of Bangladesh Meat Traders' Association, said the demand for sacrificial cattle this year would be around 80,000, which is normally 1.15 crore to 1.25 crore every year.
While visiting the Dhupkhola cattle market in the morning, these correspondent saw that temporary sheds and lights have been set up all over the playground. But the number of cattle remains poor.
Md Azmal, a trader from Jhenidah who brought 10 cattle to Dhupkhola cattle market, said, "Eighty percent traders in our area did not bring their bulls to the market fearing loss as they heard most people will not sacrifice animals due to financial crisis or coronavirus."
Rafiqul Islam, another trader at the haat, said he reared 50 bulls this year targeting Eid, but brought only 20 fearing loss. "I will rear the 30 others for next year... hopefully the situation will improve by then," he said.
Monsur Ali, a trader at Aftab Nagar cattle market, however, remains optimistic. "I brought 11 bulls out of 30 from Chuadanga. If there's enough buyers and I'm able to sell all, I will bring the rest before Eid."
"I have a loan of Tk 5 lakh, which I'll have to pay by selling the bulls. If I don't get a good price from the market, I will have to sell those to meat traders after Eid," said Monsur.
Tofazzal Hossain, a cattle trader of Gabtoli cattle market, echoed him.
LESS BUYERS ADD TO WOES
The number of buyers is also significantly less at the cattle markets this year.
Shakhawat Hossain, a trader from Kushtia who brought a bull at Kachukhet market, said, "I was offered Tk 1.20 lakh for a bull weighing around seven maunds. But I came here hoping to get a better offer."
As of yesterday, he was unable to sell the animal.
The capacity of purchasing sacrificial animals is less this year as many have lost their jobs or faced huge losses in their businesses.
Mohammad Noman, a market representative of a private firm at Farmgate, had never skipped sacrificing animals during Eid. But things are different this year as he has been out of a job for the last four months.
"It's tough to run my three-member family these days. I don't think I'll be able to sacrifice animals this year," he said.
At the same time, many people who used to sacrifice multiple animals have reduced the number of cattle while those who sacrificed animals on their own are doing so in shares.
"I did not get bonus this year... I along with other locals are sacrificing a bull together," said Mohammad Shajahan, a private job holder at Mirpur.
On the other hand, many residents are avoiding sacrificing animals due to the ongoing pandemic situation.
"We have never missed sacrificing animals during eid. But this time we decided not to, considering the risk of coronavirus," said Mohammad Akhter, a resident of Pallabi.