With Eid-ul-Azha just a month away, cattle farmers are in fear of incurring huge losses during the festival, as they are sensing a sharp drop in the demand for sacrificial animals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many traders have already started selling their cattle to meat traders as they believe rearing the animals will make them bear bigger losses.
The price of beef has dropped around Tk 20-50 per kg since around a couple of weeks ago due to supplies surpassing demands, meat traders said.
Dr Abdul Zabbar Shikdar, director general of the Department of Livestock, said that this year, 1.19 crore cattle have been reared targeting Eid-ul-Azha, exceeding last year's demand by 10 lakh.
He said that last year 1.18 crore animals were reared but around 1.09 crore were slaughtered during the three-day festival, adding that they hope local cattle are enough to meet the people's demand.
"But the main challenge is selling the cattle in different markets while maintaining social distance and following health guidelines," the DG said, adding that they were trying to find a way for animals to be sold online.
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.
He further said the capacity of purchasing sacrificial animals is less this year as many people have lost their jobs or faced huge losses in their businesses.
About the sudden drop in the price of red meat, Rabiul said 50 percent of the demand has dropped in the capital due to the pandemic, as most of the restaurants are closed or are facing a serious scarcity of customers since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak.
He added that normally, 5,000 to 6,000 cattle would be slaughtered every day in the city. That number has dropped to 1,500 to 2,000 during the outbreak, whereas, the number of cattle has increased.
He believes the price of red meat will drop further due to the pandemic.
Tofazzal Hossain, a cattle trader of Gabtoli cattle market, said the demand has dropped significantly since the beginning of the outbreak.
Cattle traders used to sell around 150 cows to meat traders every week, but now they sell only 50 to 60.
"I sold a bull to a meat trader today for Tk 1 lakh. I would normally sell it for Tk 1.10 lakh," said Tofazzal on Friday.
Many cattle traders who reared their bulls targeting Eid are selling their livestock early, fearing loss, he said, adding that the number of customers in rural cattle markets is poor, which is unusual just one month ahead of Eid.
"I could purchase a bull for Tk 70,000 from Gabtoli cattle market on Friday, the price of which would normally be around 80,000," said a meat trader of Khilgaon Goran market.
Many meat traders of different kitchen markets in Dhaka have already dropped their prices by Tk 20 to Tk 50, as the demand for meat has dropped significantly, said cattle traders.
"I would sell one kg beef for Tk 580. We have been charging Tk 530 since June 15," said Mohammad Ali, a meat trader of Mirpur-14 Battalion market.
He said they have dropped their prices as the price of cows has dropped too. Their sales have increased since the prices were reduced.
A cattle trader in Kushtia, who purchased 100 bulls for Eid, said he would sell 50 of them over the last three days before the festival.
"A bull that would normally cost around Tk one lakh is around Tk 10 to 15 thousand less now, for which I have taken the chance to get a good profit," he said.