Once highly dependent on Indian cattle for meeting the huge demand of sacrificial animals during Eid-ul-Azha, Bangladesh is now planning a large-scale export of cattle meat as local farms have staged a ‘quiet revolution’ in animal husbandry.
Officials at the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) said they have taken various steps to boost the cattle meat export since the country’s number of surplus cattle has been growing significantly over the last few years with over 10 lakh this year alone.
Experts think India’s ban on cattle export has encouraged many farmers, traders and unemployed educated youths to take up cattle farming to steadily turn the crisis into an opportunity to attain cattle autarky.
“We’ve over 10 lakh surplus cattle this year meeting the huge demand of sacrificial animals during this eid. We had also huge surplus cattle in the last three years,” DLS Director General Hiresh Ranjan Bhowmik told UNB.
He said around 26 lakh cows entered Bangladesh from India in 2012, but with the rise in local production it continued to decline gradually. “In the last seven months of this year, only 92,000 cows were brought from India and Myanmar. People also now don’t want to buy Indian cattle. Our goat population is increasing substantially.”
The DLS DG, however, feared that there will an imbalance between the production and demand if the country does not go for a large-scale export of cattle meat with the growing local production.
“We now export cattle meat on a very small-scale by two farms– Bengal Meat and Deshi Meat. We’ve some drawbacks to boost our export as we still couldn’t fulfill some WTO conditions. One of the conditions is to free the entire country or its some zones from hand-foot-and-mouth, or HFMD disease of the cattle,” the DLS DG said.
He said the two companies now collect cows for beef export only from three upazilas in Pabna as those were announced free from HFMD. “We’re now going to declare four districts–Sirajganj, Pabna, Manikganj and Bhola–free from the disease through mass vaccination and other activities to boost the export.”
For the export, Hiresh said, there is another condition of having an international standard quality control laboratory for testing meat and other animal derivatives. “We’ve already established such a laboratory in Savar which will go into operation in January next.”
He said they also have to complete some other process to get a certificate from The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and they are working on it. “Once we get a certificate from OIE, WTO will accept it, paving the way for boosting the export.”
The DLS DG said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is very eager to increase the cattle meat export. “She has asked us to take export-oriented steps. So, we’re taking various projects keeping export in mind and the government is approving all the projects.”
AFM Asif, the chief executive officer of Bengal Meat, said they are now exporting meat on a small-scale to Middle East countries and the Maldives. “It’s around 12 to 25 tonnes a month.”
He said Bangladesh has the huge scope to boom its meat export across the world and grab a large share of global halal meat market.
Asif said Bangladesh’s global rating for exporting meat is very poor but the government is currently working to improve it.
He also said the cattle production cost is very high in Bangladesh due to high rate of cattle feed. “So, the prices of cattle feed should be controlled alongside raising the number of cattle stocks for increasing the meat export.”
Prof Dr Md Nurul Islam, dean of Animal Husbandry Faculty at Bangladesh Agricultural University, said there is no alternative to increasing the export of cattle meat keeping the pace with the huge growth in the sector. “Otherwise, the farmers may not get fair prices of their cattle as the number of surplus cattle is growing every year.”
He said the cattle sector has developed in the country with the united efforts of the government, NGOs, private farms and farmers.
Prof Islam said effective programmes for genetic development of cattle, crossbreeding local cattle with high-yielding species like Brahman and Friesian, artificial breeding technique, the proper medication of the cattle population, Bangladesh Bank’s soft loan for setting up farms and extensive training for cattle farmers helped the country achieve cattle autarky reducing dependency on others.
He said the government should take some steps to make the progress achieved in the sector sustainable. “The cattle feed should be cheaper and free from harmful medicines, and the framers should be encouraged to follow organic-farming methods.”
Mohammad Shah Emran, the general secretary of Bangladesh Dairy Farmers’ Association (BDFA), said the fall in cattle import from India has become a boon for the development of cattle and dairy farms.
“The number of cattle farms and farmers are growing day by day. The government should now take some effective steps to protect the interests of farmers,” he said.