If beef import from Brazil in exchange for RMG export gets approval, it will be a suicidal decision for the country, said at least ten organisations involved in frozen food and dairy business.
Apart from farmers, a number of potential sectors, including tannery industry, feed meal and agriculture, will be hit hard with this decision.
They also fear a big negative impact on the rural economy.
They were speaking at a press conference, organised by Animal Health Companies Association of Bangladesh (AHCAB), at the National Press Club on Monday.
AHCAB President Dr Nazrul Islam said, "If a condition is imposed for importing beef against exporting readymade garments, it will be a suicidal decision for the country."
Because a large portion of foreign exchange earned through RMG export is spent on importing raw materials for it, he added.
Livelihood of about six crore people depends on 1.61 crore households who rear cattle. At present, the number of cattle and the meat production in the country are more than demand.
The livelihood of a vast population will deal a big blow, if the beef import is allowed, DR Nazrul added.
Bangladesh Dairy Food Association, Bangladesh Veterinary Association, Bangladesh Agro Feed Ingredient Importers and Traders Association, Bangladesh Animal Husbandry Association, Bangladesh Tanners Association, Bengal Meat and others took part in the programme.
Meat market in Bangladesh
As per the data of the Department of Livestock Services, Bangladesh has become self-reliant in meat production last year.
With the requirement of 120 grams of meat per head, the country's total demand for meat stands at 72.97 lakh tonnes.
In the fiscal year 2018-19, the amount of meat produced from cattle, chicken and duck is 75.14 lakh tonnes.
The amount of surplus meat is 2.17 lakh tonnes. Of the amount, some 55 percent came from cows and goats.
However, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said Bangladesh is at the bottom in terms of meat consumption.
Per capita meat consumption in Bangladesh is four kilograms while the per capita meat consumption in Pakistan and the USA is 14.7 kilograms and 120 kilograms respectively, according to the FAO.
The Numbeo in a report said a kilogram of beef in Bangladesh costs Tk533 which is highest among all its neighbouring countries. A kilogram of beef sells at Tk390 in India and Tk260 in Pakistan.
A syndicate of cattle farmers and fodder crisis have been blamed for the higher price of beef in the country.
Imran Ahmed, president of Bangladesh Dairy Farm Association said, "The price of meat is a bit higher in Bangladesh compared to that of in the international market".
Leasing land to farmers for producing fodder, incentives, easy-term loans, electricity supply to cattle farms, and duty-free feed import will mainly help reduce meat prices in the country, Imran Ahmed added.
High of production cattle
About 20 years back, some 70 percent of the country's demand for cattle was met through import from neighbouring India.
After a strict vigilance was imposed by India in 2004, numerous cattle farms were set up in the country.
After the infiltration of Indian cows was stopped, some 4,42,991 commercial cattle farms were set up in the country under both government and private initiatives. Of those, the number of dairy farms is 59,274.
As per the data from Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association, at present there some 257.24 lakh cows, buffalo and 298.00 lakh goats and lambs in the country.
Of them, farmers are rearing 900.00 lakh cows and 140.00 lakh goats and lambs.
The kind loss is feared for beef import
The people concerned apprehended the rural economy, including farmers will incur heavy losses, if meat is imported.
They claimed 80 to 90 percent of the country's cattle production comes from rural farmers, small and medium farms.
If imported meat is easily available, this big number of people will plunge into poverty.
Md Shah Imran, secretary of Bangladesh Dairy Food Association narrated the relation between meat and economy of the country.
Md Shah Imran said the tannery industry is dependent on hides produced in the country.
About Tk9,000 crore is transacted in hide, skin and leather products.
About 13 crore metric tonnes of organic fertilizer is produced from the cattle waste in the country every year.
A big feed meal industry has been built up based on cattle which employs about 5 lakh people every year.
Besides, about Tk10,000 crore business has also developed on it.
Why is the beef import in talks?
Recently, a government delegation, led by Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, has visited Brazil to take a decision on signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Mercosur trade bloc including Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Bangladesh proposed that those countries will import readymade garments from Bangladesh under the agreement. Against it, Brazil proposed exporting beef to Bangladesh. At present, Brazil is the world's biggest meat exporter.
Returning from Brazil, on August 27, Tipu Munshi told reporters at his secretariat office, "There are 30 crore RMG importers in those countries and there is a huge prospect for Bangladeshi goods in the region but the amount of export is very small."
If an agreement is signed, they will import RMG by reducing duty rate. However, in exchange, they have proposed exporting their meat to Bangladesh. For that they also wanted duty free facility, he added.
In the face of an protest against the minister's statement, the commerce ministry said the matter has not been finalised yet.
Md Mofizul Islam, senior secretary to the commerce ministry said, "Talks are going on about the FTA. The agreement will contain nothing which is harmful for Bangladesh."