Traders leave unsold rawhide of Eid cattle to rot on Dhaka streets

Badal, a seasonal rawhide trader who gave a single name, collected some skins of animals sacrificed on Eid-ul-Azha in Dhaka and took those to sell at Posta, but the merchants offered lower prices than the cost.

Finally, he and others left hundreds of unsold rawhide to rot on the main road near the warehouses at the Old Dhaka rawhide trade hub.

Badal said he paid people Tk 300 to Tk 500 for each rawhide he collected on the Eid day on Wednesday, but the merchants offered an average of Tk 300 per piece.

As time passed in the bargaining, the merchants closed the warehouses and left, saying they cannot buy the rawhide as those begin to rot.  

“We waited the whole night hoping to sell the rawhide. Finally, we threw them on the street and left very early in the morning,” said Badal. “There were many like us.

Later on Thursday morning, city corporation workers removed the animal skins from the streets for dumping.

Dhaka South Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said some rawhide were left in drains and clogged the sewage lines, increasing the work of the cleaners who were already overburdened with 20,000 tonnes of waste from the Eid cattle.

Tipu Sultan, secretary general of Bangladesh Hide and Skin Merchants Association, denied the allegation that they refused to buy rawhide at the prices expected by the seasonal traders.

“We bought rawhide at the prices set by the government, or at higher rates. But we would not buy rotten skins,” he said.

Many seasonal traders in Chattogram also had to dump cattle rawhide on the streets on Wednesday after being offered lower-than-expected prices.

The situation, however, has improved from the grim picture of the past two years. In recent years, there has been a marked decline in the rawhide collection as stocks from previous years drove down demand while a financial crisis coupled with the coronavirus pandemic compounded matters further.

However, many in the sector hoped that the 'hard times' will pass this year, with the arrears of the tanners falling while the previous year's stocks were also drying up. Adequate salt stocks and the government's initiative to ease exports of wet blue leather further boosted hopes.

Stakeholders believed the situation would change this time as the demand for rawhide in the leather and leather product export sector has gone up and some of the problems that existed last year have been resolved.

The government has increased the prices of rawhide by Tk 5 per square foot during the Eid this year. The price of a square foot of salted cow or buffalo rawhide was set between Tk 40 and 45 in Dhaka, an increase from Tk 35-40 per sq ft last year.

Additionally, the government has paved the way for the export of 10 million pieces of wet blue leather over the next year, which is expected to create additional incentives for leather procurement.

Leather sector stakeholders estimate that about 7 million animals, including cows, goats and buffaloes are sacrificed in the country every year, which is more than half of the animals slaughtered throughout the year.

Of this, about 4 million are cows, according to industry sources. However, the number of animal sacrifices dropped about 40 percent last year due to a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and seasonal floods.

According to the Department of Livestock Services, as many as 11.8 million animals were being considered worthy of sacrifice this time. Of these, cows and buffaloes accounted for 4.5 million while the other 7.2 million were goats and sheep.