When will we get a fair price for raw hide?
Since the past few years after Eid ul Adha, the burning issue across the country has been the price of raw hide of sacrificial animals. Because the price of sacrificial animal's skin was lower the country. But this year, I was a little optimistic after the announcement of the commerce minister to increase the price of sacrificial animal's skin to Tk.5 than last year's price.
After a meeting between govt. and tannery association, commerce minister fixed the raw hide price for this year. According to sources, the prices of raw hides of cows was fixed at Tk. 40-45 a square feet in Dhaka and at Tk. 33-37 a square feet for those traded outside Dhaka. The prices of castrated-goat skins were set at Tk 15-17 a square feet and that of goat skins was set at Tk 12-14 a square feet.
The headlines of various newspapers and magazines were that the prices of raw hide had gone up slightly since last year. Seeing these headlines, I was relieved, because this time the price of the sacrificial animal skin would be a little higher and poor people will get some extra money as charity. But reality is totally different and opposite. The price of sacrificial animal's skin was less than last time in a local market. Promise was not kept. The increased prices did not come true in most parts of the country. At one stage the Commerce Minister requested the leather traders, "For God's sake, please buy and sell the sacrificial animal's skin on fixed price." But the leather traders heedless to minister's plea have made several syndicates in the country.
Many people, who sacrificed animals, claimed that very few seasonal traders visited them and offered them the highest Tk. 50 for an average size cow-hide and also refused to take goat skin! Somewhere there were no seasonal raw hide traders. If they wanted to give leather to the madrasa, they also did not want to take it. In some places unsold raw hide was dumped in the garbage or burnt on the ground. In some places, the price of raw hide was less than one fifty taka!
As a result, seasonal traders, needy, poor and charitable organizations were badly affected. If the fair price was applied as per the government-set prices, a cattle rawhide measuring 20 to 30 square feet was supposed to be sold at Tk900 (20x45) and Tk1350 (30x45) respectively.
According to the statistics, the government and the traders have been cutting the price of rawhides of sacrificial animals every year since 2013. The price of cowhide decreased by 57.36 per cent and that of goat skin fell by 83.63 per cent in the last seven years, while the price of sacrificial animals almost doubled during the period.
Every year, the tannery owners profit by reducing the price of raw hide by befooling the people because of the salt crisis in the country, low demand for leather in the international market, capital crisis, high price of production cost etc. This year also, traders gave reasons such as Covid-19 situation, capital crisis, etc.
According to them, China, the biggest market for us, is not interested in taking leather from Bangladesh. However, the largest manufacturers of leather and leather products are Italy, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, USA and Canada. Traders claim that 30 percent of raw hides bought last year were unsold and that was the main reason for the reduction of raw hide price.
The big question is when the corona was not, was the price of leather higher than now? If not, why is the price of the cowhide price just Tk 50? Did this give legitimacy to the syndicate? Doesn't this prove the strength of the syndicate or the helplessness of the government towards the syndicate?
Bangladeshi raw hide is much better than the Indian. But despite low quality, India declared raw hide price at tk. 90 per square feet, while that of Bangladesh with better quality is half the Indian price. Statistics show that the demand for processed leather exports all over the world, including Bangladesh, is half of the total raw hide Bangladesh collects throughout the year. Yet, the businessmen seek excuse to reduce raw hide price.
It is clear that it is a kind of conspiracy against our leather sector. Will the price of shoes, travel bags, belts or wallets be reduced? Because when the prices of leathers are low, the prices of the finished products are also going to fall! But the reality is that we never see prices of these falling.
Reducing the raw hide price of sacrificial animal, merchants seek to gain their own interest. The question arises, how are we devouring charity money meant for the poor, needy orphans? Are we so obsessed with greed and profit making that we are ready to snatch the money meant for beggars!
On August 28, 2016, India's Anandabazar magazine carried the headline - "The politics of cow slaughter dragged on raw skin in India". The report said that tanneries had to sacrifice around 75 crore rupees a year for politics over cow slaughter, though there were some cattle slaughtering violations in India. However, this year they will be able to recover some of the damage due to the leather syndicate of Bangladesh. As a result of the price drop here, there is likelihood of raw hide being trafficked to India, because the price there is three times higher. As it will help the Indian leather goods industry, therefore they will welcome the raw hides from Bangladesh with money and protection.
We have to keep in mind that raw materials are the essential conditions for export growth. Keeping in view the possibilities of the leather sector, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the Leather and Leather Products as the Product of the Year - 2017. She announced that two more leather industries would be established in Chattogram and Rajshahi divisions.
Animal raw hide procured during Eid-ul-Azha is our national wealth and is the primary raw material of our nascent leather industry. If we want our leather industry to grow, we must protect the interest of the raw hide merchants. But if the present trend continues, then the prospect of a bright leather sector will be destroyed by the rash business moves.
The writer is academician, researcher & ethical analyst
lecturer of Philsophy, Feni South - East Degree College