As in previous years, sea-going vessels loaded with cows and buffalos from Myanmar are arriving in Bangladesh every day with Eid-ul-Adha, the second largest religious festival of Muslims, just over a week away.
In the last two days - Friday and Saturday – nearly 3,000 cattle entered Bangladesh through the Shahporeer Dweep Corridor.
After buying the cattle there, traders take them to various destinations in the country, including Chattogram and Cox’s Bazar.
This import helps the government collect a large amount of revenue.
Since the imported cows and buffalos look similar to local ones, experts believe they are helping keep the price of sacrificial animals at a reasonable level.
According to revenue station sources in Cox’s Bazar, cattle import from Myanmar was suspended for a long time in the recently ended fiscal year because of inclement weather and a crisis in that country.
But the cattle have started arriving in large quantities by sea from the beginning of August.
2,212 cows and 616 buffalos arrived in just two days – Friday and Saturday, with the government collecting Tk 13 lakh 14 thousand in revenue.
Sources say that 10,095 cows and buffalos were brought into the country through this corridor in July, which is double the figure that was brought in the same month last year.
In the seven months to July this year, the government has collected more than Tk2.21 crore in duties from cattle import from the neighbouring country.
Importer Shahidul Islam says that cattle are imported from Myanmar through Shahporeer Dweep throughout the year. However, traders usually import a larger number of animals ahead of Eid-ul-Adha every year to meet the additional demand.
He said that while the government collects a large amount of revenue at this border point, the lack of facilities for holding the cattle there while import formalities are completed is a matter of great difficulty for traders.
Two vessels carrying about 250 cows and buffalos arrived on Saturday, said Md Sohel, a cattle importer. He added that they plan to import several thousand more cattle ahead of Eid.
Md Moyez Uddin, a tariff official in Teknaf, said they collect Tk500 on an imported cow or buffalo and Tk250 on a goat in duties.
Importers are being encouraged to bring in more cattle ahead of Eid because it helps them meet the huge revenue collection target set by the government.
Aziz Moula Chowdhury, a trader in Cox’s Bazar, said cows being brought in from Myanmar look similar to local ones, but they are cheaper. This helps in stabilizing the price of sacrificial animals while there is a high demand for them in many areas including Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram.
Unlike the cows in Bangladesh, the cows in Myanmar live in a more natural grazing environment. This means that they are healthier, have fewer diseases, and their meat is healthier for consumption because they have not been fattened artificially.
Bangladeshi importers bring in cows and buffalos from traders in different areas including Akiab and Mundu in Myanmar.
Jahangir Kabir Chowdhury, Ukhia upazila general secretary of Awami League and chairman of the Rajapalong Union Parishad says that cows and buffalos used to be smuggled in from Myanmar through different points. But these points have almost completely been closed, helping the government collect a larger amount of revenue.
Lieutenant Colonel Faisal Hasan Khan, commander of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) -2 in Teknaf, said they try to make sure that the cattle-laden vessels face no problem when they arrive through the sea. He further said that BGB members provide support in importing the cattle through discussions with traders.
The members of the paramilitary force have also been keeping watch so that firearms, drugs or Rohingyas cannot arrive along with the cattle.
Md Iqbal Hossain, additional superintendent of police in Cox’s Bazar, said law enforcers have been keeping watch so the traders and buyers do not face any trouble including illegal toll collection and the use of counterfeit notes.
The Shahporeer Dweep corridor in Teknaf is an area under the coverage of the revenue station. The corridor was set up on May 25, 2003, to prevent cattle smuggling from Myanmar.
The imported cattle are first kept under the supervision of the BGB. Clearances for the cattle are issued after the traders deposit revenue through challans in a local branch of Sonali Bank and procure permission from the revenue station of the land port.