This Eid-ul-Azha, there was hardly any need to import cattle for sacrifice during the festival. The demand was met by the country’s own rapidly growing livestock sector.
Young entrepreneurs are turning towards rearing cattle as a promising business. Faisal Bin Malek studied at Willes Little Flower School in Dhaka and then went on to earn a CA degree in the UK. His friend Shabbir Ahmed graduated from Eastern Texas University, Back home, they joined up with two others to start a cattle farm in 2017.
They began with just two cows and now, in a matter of three years, they have 100 cows on their farm.
The farm is near Faisal’s grandparent’s home at Rajendrapur of Singair, Manikganj. They sold 35 animals from their farm this qurbani Eid.
Faisal and his friends first started off by purchasing two bighas of land. Their farm now stretches over an area of 50 bighas.
Many people have started up similar cattle farms across the country. In fact, every year 70,000 new cattle farms are opening up in the country.
These farms mostly aim for the Eid market and also to sell milk. Interestingly, these have mostly been set up by young entrepreneurs.
Given the huge volume of livestock provided by these young persons over Eid this year, there was hardly any need to import cows. In fact, there were around 1 million to 1.2 million cows surplus.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Faisal Bin Malik said, “We began the farm with our own land and resources savings and also with training from the livestock department. We still haven’t broken even and are yet to make a profit, but we enjoy our work immensely. We hope to make a profit within the next year or two. It is also encouraging to see around 25 families nearby using bio-fuel made of cow dung from our farm.”
There are around 5000 modern cattle farms owned by such young people in and around Dhaka. Set up over the past four or five years, these farms are equipped with all sorts of hi-tech equipment, including CCTV cameras and more.
The farms are spread out over Mohammedpur, Beribadh, Basila, Keraniganj, Savar and Ashulia in the capital city, as well as in Gazipur and Mymensingh.
There are online cattle sales too. Over one million cows remained unsold this year in the Eid cattle market. Interestingly, all cattle on the online market were sold.
There is an exponential and steady growth of cattle farms in the country. Ever since a ban was imposed in India on cows being sent to Bangladesh, small and mid-level businesspersons took up rearing cattle.
Around 70 per cent of the entrepreneurs who have taken up cattle farming are young educated professionals.
According to the department of livestock, there were 377,000 cattle farm owners in 2017. In 2019 this number stands a 577,416. Only 57,000 of the farms are registered with the government so far. Around one million young people are associated with cattle farms in the country.
General secretary of Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association, Shah Imran, told Prothom Alo, unlike wheat, rice and jute farmers in the country, cattle farmers do not receive any sort of subsidies or facilities from the government. They have to take high-interest loans to set up the farms, pushing production costs up. It would be possible to provide consumers with cows and beef at more reasonable prices if the government lent its support.
Women take up goat rearing
According to the state-run micro finance institution, Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), 80 percent of the profit coming from investments in livestock remains in the villages and is reinvested. At the same time this is expanding the dairy and leather industry and also increasing the use of cow dung as fertilizer in the agricultural sector.
And when it comes to goat rearing, around 90 percent of the profits go to the rural women entrepreneurs. They mostly use their earnings for their family’s nutrition and education.
PKSF chairman and economist Kazi Kholiquzzaman sais, “The rural economy is benefitted the most. Cattle rearing is providing the highest profits among the agricultural sub-sectors of the country. We have started up animal insurance to cover risks.”
According to PKSF, 40 percent of the microloans in the country are going to livestock farmers. There is presently around Tk 100 billion invested in the sector from the PKSF and other associated institutions and the entrepreneurs’ own resources. Another Tk 10 billion has been invested from NGOs and various banks.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.