Photo shows a herd of buffalo
File photo

Delhi has sent a letter to Dhaka requesting permission to export buffalo meat to Bangladesh.

Indian high commission in Dhaka sent the letter to the fisheries and livestock ministry on 7 July.

The ministry’s Department of Livestock Services said they are formulating a policy and will take decision considering the interest of local farmers.

Following the request of India, the ministry sent a letter to the director general of Department of Livestock Services seeking the latter’s opinion. The director general has not yet given their opinion.

The letter states Indian companies are the largest exporters of high quality and hygienically processed meat that is non-completive in Bangladesh. Request was also made to lower tariff on export of buffalo meat.

Director general of the Department of Livestock Services, Monjur Mohammad Shahjada told Prthom Alo, “Import cannot be prevented in free market economy as well as we have to try to meet the domestic demand of red meat internally amidst the existing global situations and we are formulating a policy considering this two factors.”

“We will make our decision after talking to other agencies of the government,” he added.

The Bangladesh Meat Importers and Traders Association (BMITA) sent letters to the fisheries and livestock ministry in March and June making a similar request but the government did not respond to it.

Later, the Indian high commission in Dhaka sent a letter to the fisheries and livestock ministry at the request of the All India Buffalo and Sheep Meat Exporters Association (AIMLEA) and the BMITA. Import of red meat from India to Bangladesh has remained stopped for two years, according to the BMITA.

The commerce ministry in an instruction this year said import of frozen buffalo meat will require permission of the Department of Livestock Services. Besides, a 20 per cent supplementary duty has been imposed on import of meat in the budget of 2021-22 fiscal.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, BMITA president Shamim Ahammed said number and production of livestock has increased in the country. The government claims Bangladesh is self-reliant on production of cow and goat but it is applicable during Eidul-Azha only. Red meat remains out of poor people's purchasing capacity for the rest of the year; so, if meat is not imported, nutrition safety of the country will not be ensured, he added.

According to BMITA sources, Bangladesh imports 10-12 thousand tonnes of frozen meat annually from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Ethiopia, France, South Korea, Thailand, China, UAE and USA with mostly coming from India.

Bangladesh Dairy Farmers’ Association, however, is against import of meat. They said production of livestock is on the rise in the country and it is possible to meet internal demand with the livestock of the country.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, BDFA president Md Imran Hossain said if government’s facilities on livestock rearing continue price of meat will decrease in future.

Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation chairman and economist Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said, “Large number of entrepreneurs have invested in livestock sector over the past several years. That is why we can meet the demand of sacrificial animals during Eid-ul-Azha without importing the cattle and this is a big achievement. Import of meat will have to be discouraged to retain this achievement and local sector will have to give protection as well.”

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna