Syndicates exploited the situation to collect stock at low cost

Faruque Ahmed
Shock and surprise grabbed the nation as big rawhide merchants kept themselves away from buying hide and skin of animals during this Eid-ul-Azhathis time from small traders known as seasonal traders who venture in the scene every year to collect rawhide and sell it to big merchants.
On the Eid Day evening it appeared that there is none to collect the rawhide. Agents of big merchants were not buying it from small traders even at minimum price; least to speak about the government set price.
Very quickly small traders found them in a trap with their stock and stopped collecting more rawhide from door steps. Some buyers were offering owners Tk 50 to Tk 100 for a piece of rawhide which must fetch them over Tk 1000. Small traders have no buyers as agents of big merchants didn’t show up at street corners.
Many wonder how syndicates of a few big traders can hold the entire nation hostage when a government is apparently in total control in every sector of the national life. The way tanners and big rawhide merchants created the chaos has invariably tarnished the image of the government. Many however believe the government is being often embarrassed by its own people around the power corner.
The crisis over buying and selling of rawhide is eye opener to a bigger crisis. As per some estimates says over one crore twenty five lakhs animals were slaughtered this year during Eid festival and the number will be growing every year as local fattening by farmers is fast a growing as a domestic business.
It suggest there should be a smooth system of buying and selling of rawhide protected by various safeguards so that big players can’t hold the nation hostage. Another issue has come the fore. That is the greater possibility of meat export.
Indian cattle are regularly arriving Bangladesh to add to the growing herd of local animals like cows, goats and buffaloes. It is time the government should think about it by formulating a long term policy to develop it as a growing export sector.
During this Eid rawhides remained spilled over in the yard of many families who eventually abandoned it in roadside or in open air to get rid of the stint. Small traders also disposed whatever collection they made at throw away price. In many cases they dumped it in the open air.
Very soon it didn’t remain secret that rawhide merchants were acting in nexus with tanners to create a situation in which absence of buyers at field level would crash rawhide price to the ground and then they would buy. Exactly it happened.
In the capital street corners at many places were found spilling up with abandoned rawhide. Media report said small traders in Chattogramdumped unsold rawhide of around 100,000 animals mostly cattle in the street following a steep price fall.
In some estimates 50 percent rawhide became waste this time throughout the country. It is too early to say the total losses suffered by small traders and such other stakeholders.
As the crisis unfolded, rawhide merchants said they had no cash to go for big buying because tanners had not cleared their arrears of last years which is running over Tk 300 crore in some estimates. Tanners however blamed the merchants for taking the buying and selling hostage running several syndicates controlling the chain.
Labeling of blames and counter-blames passed the week when small traders disappeared from the scene with colossal losses. Meanwhile tanners started buying from merchants who collected the stock at throwaway prices.
In fact both the tanners and big rawhide merchants who supply the bulk to tanners acted togetherto squeeze small traders and force owners of sacrificial animals to sell at a throwaway price. Their action this year appeared to suggest that they are not prepared to pay a reasonable price to small traders – the money that they pay to owners of animals who later donate it to madrashs, orphanages or such other charitable organization.
The action of rawhide merchants and tanners openly suggest that they believe they should get the hide and skin of sacrificial animals free of cost as part of the overall sacrifice in the name of God.
The fact is that small traders, owners of animals or the beneficiaries of donation of ‘Kurbani’rawhide are not organized like the big merchants and tanners working as organized syndicates. This is a new trend propelled by a motive of unashamed cheating and unlimited greed. The government is not using its power to check the wrong doers.
What is surprising is that representatives of big rawhide merchants and tanners agreed to follow the government fix price of rawhide at a meeting with commerce ministry only few days ahead of the Eid-ul-Azha.
But they pressed their pre-planned conspiracy in due time. They least bothered the government in this respect. This is a time dominated by unbridled growth of capitalism by big businesses. Some are eating away banks stealing money, some are grabbing money under the cover of false projects, yet some others are using trade and industry as cover to transfer illegal money abroad.
Owners of leather industry have similarly targeted rawhide and false export voucherto collect incentive money against fake exports. The chaos in rawhide collection this time is not a difference either.
Government leaders made empty rhetoric of punishing the syndicates if any and even warned of allowing export in a bid to show of its unflinching attitude to the wrong doers. But many knows that many government leaders are part of the syndicates. Who will punish who in such situation?
The opposition BNP has publicly blamed unidentified government leaders for having their hands behind it, but information minister has shot back saying BNP has destroyed the jute sector and now hatching conspiracy to destroy the leather sector.
Finance minister and commerce minister said those having their hands in the crisis would be punished. But there is no visible move to identify the culprits and unveil their face to the public. There is no inquiry committee being set up and the prevailing situation does not allow anyone to be vocal on such demands.
Meanwhile, the market deadlock already ended at a meeting at commerce ministry last week when merchants and tanners agreed to buy and sell making the situation clear. Many believe merchants and tanners used the blame game to buy rawhide at throw away price. Small traders lost their capital while beneficiaries of donated money become worst affected by it.

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