No Eid cheer for seasonal rawhide traders
The government could not stop the rampant waste of rawhide this year too despite fixing a higher price for the animal skins and allowing the export of wet blue for the first time in 30 years.
The squandering of the leather industry's raw material was less this time than in the previous two Eid-ul-Azha, which saw wholesale dumping of the sacrificial animals' skins.
This year, the government fixed Tk 40-45 for per square foot of salt-applied rawhide of cows in Dhaka and Tk 33-37 elsewhere. The prices of salt-applied rawhide of goat would be Tk 14-17 per square foot and female goat skins Tk 12-14.
In Bangladesh, a cow or buffalo's skin is 20 to 25 square feet and a goat's is 4 to 5 square feet. The hide of a cow, the sacrificial animal of choice in Bangladesh, is supposed to fetch at least Tk 800 and the goat's at least Tk 50 this time.
In reality, cows' skins are sold at Tk 200-300 apiece and goats' skins Tk 10-15.
And yet, many seasonal traders and orphanages could not sell the rawhides, with sights of the sacrificial animals' skins being chucked out became all too common in places such as Moulvibazar and Bogura.
As is custom, the amount raised by selling the rawhide of sacrificial cattle during Eid-ul-Azha is distributed among the poor, so the dumping meant the poor were deprived of alms.
Despite his best intentions, Rafikul Islam Sweet, a college teacher in Pabna, found no takers for the rawhide of the bull he bought for Tk 1 lakh.
"I kept the rawhide until Thursday morning at my home but nobody came for it. At last, I requested a cleaner in our area to take it away for disposal," he told The Daily Star.
In Patuakhali, thousands of skins were dumped in the Monu river by seasonal traders, collectors, madrasas and orphanage authorities.
In Bogura, about 10,000 pieces of goat and sheep skins were thrown in the garbage due to lack demands.
Ala Uddin, a seasonal leather trader in Natore, said that he bought rawhide at a high price after seeing in the news that the price of leather was good this year.
But he had to sell goat hides for Tk 10-15 per piece after purchasing them for Tk 30-40.
Aminul Islam, a seasonal trader in Naldanga, Natore, one of the biggest markets for rawhide, said he bought goatskin at Tk 20 per piece and cowhide at Tk 200 to Tk 300 per piece and had to sell the goatskin at half the price he bought.
He, however, sold the cowhide at higher prices: Tk 400 to Tk 500 per piece.
Sabbir Ahmed, a seasonal trader in Uttara, was not as lucky. He bought rawhide at Tk 200 to Tk 300 depending on the size and quality and made a profit of about Tk 50.
In Chattogram, most of the rawhide were sold at lower prices than the government fixed rates for want of demand: Of the 22 tanneries in the port city, 21 are shut.
Md Aftab Uddin, president of the Bangladesh Hide and Skin Merchants Association (BHSMA), said they bought salt-applied rawhide at the government-set rate from seasonal traders.
BHSMA estimates that a total of 44 lakh bulls and 22 lakh goats were slaughtered this Eid-ul-Azha.
Md Hafizur Rahman, additional secretary (export) to the commerce ministry, who led a team to monitor the rawhide prices this year, said they found the traders got better prices this year in all divisions.