Taijul Islam's Fuzila Poultry Farm at Gazipur has around15,000 chickens. Farm raised poultry are very susceptible to diseases and most veterinary medicines that Taijul uses for protecting his flock round the year are manufactured locally. He also uses some imported drugs occasionally on advice from vets.
"Locally-produced animal medicines cost less than the imported ones and are of better quality. They are also easily available. That is why we prefer local medicines," Taijul told The Business Standard.
This trust in local veterinary medicines is shared by local cattle farmers too as they said they have more trust in locally produced medicines.
"I usually rear 15 head of cattle throughout the year. Besides, I also farm 70-80 head ahead of every Eid-ul-Adha. Most medicines that these animals need are made locally," said Ariful Islam, a cattle farmer.
The market size for medicines used for protecting animal health in Bangladesh is around Tk3,000 crore. About 70% of the drug are supplied by local pharmaceutical companies, which means that they hold a Tk2,000 crore market share. The remaining 30% depends on imports, according to the Animal Health Companies Association of Bangladesh (AHCAB).
The AHCAB claims local drug producers can meet 95% demand for veterinary medicines in the country. They can meet the total demand if the government provides them with policy support.
The market for veterinary medicines has been growing by 10% on an average per year, it said.
Some drug producers have also begun exporting such medicines to a few countries in Asia and Africa, and the United Kingdom, sources said.
Renata Limited, Acme, ACI, Square, Elanco, Opsonin Pharma, Eskayef Pharmaceuticals, Navana, Popular Pharma and Incepta are some leading pharma companies manufacturing veterinary medicines.
They mainly produce antibiotics, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and toxin binder for animals.
Medicines and vaccines required for pet animals are also produced by local manufacturers.
Md Hazrat Ali, assistant manager of Incepta Pharmaceuticals, told The Business Standard, "Rampant import of animal medicines is creating a problem for us. We cannot produce and market all types of drugs even if we want to. The local pharmas have the capacity to manufacture around 95% of the medicines."
The factories of veterinary medicines began to grow riding on the development and expansion of poultry and dairy farms.
Sources said although the production of veterinary medicine started two decades ago, it gained momentum after 2010 – when most pharmaceutical companies built factories. Because at this time, poultry and dairy farms thrived the most in the country and the demand for veterinary medicines went up. A number of factories was set up to meet the growing demand.
Over the two decades, the number of veterinary medicine factories has increased to 34 from three in 2000.
When the country's poultry sector suffered a major blow from bird flu between 2007 and 2009, industry people repeatedly sought permission from the government to import a vaccine. The poultry sector bounced back after 2013 when the government allowed the vaccine import.
The market size of the poultry sector now stands at Tk35,000 crore, according to the Bangladesh Poultry Industry Central Council.
Sirajul Haque, director at Renata Animal Health Division, told TBS, "As the country's livestock sector grows, so does the demand for veterinary medicines. There has been a large investment in this sector to meet the demand.
They are getting government support just like other industries. No special support has come for them yet, he added.
"Now, what we need is a proper monitoring on the import of veterinary medicines," Sirajul said.
Most animal vaccines are also imported. There are a large number of importers as well who import most of the medicines from India and China.
Only a single company, Incepta, has started producing poultry vaccines in Bangladesh.
Local manufacturers have raised questions about the quality control of imported drugs. They say many unregistered and substandard medicines are being imported. These are not being properly tested and monitored, they alleged.
They want these medicines to be tested properly before they are sold on the market.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration is responsible for the quality control of veterinary medicines. Ayub Hossain, its spokesperson, told TBS, "Registration is mandatory for every medicine. However, not all medicines are tested before and after import. If there are any complaints about any medicine then it goes through a testing process."