Shah Amanat Jhalbitan and Bhatghar, a popular restaurant in Bahaddarhat of Chattogram city, is now selling sacrificial animals for the upcoming Eid-ul-Adha.
Dining tables and chairs pushed aside, four bulls for sale are now on display in the restaurant.
The owner of the restaurant, Idris Mia, told The Business Standard he had been running the eatery for 20 years, but business had been dull since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
"With government restrictions imposed from time to time, the eatery had to remain closed day after day. So, I have invested all my capital in sacrificial animals to make up for the loss."
Not only Idris, but many others, including traders affected by the pandemic, expatriates stranded in the country, the unemployed who lost their jobs to the pandemic, and students, have engaged in the seasonal business of selling sacrificial animals for Eid.
Many are buying cattle and trying to sell those online. Professional cattle traders in the port city have complained that they are not getting good prices as they have been undercut by these new fly-by-night traders.
Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and chairman of RDM Group, told TBS, "When businesses started getting disrupted across the country due to the pandemic since last year, I planned to start a small farm thinking about my uncertain future. Targeting this year's Eid-ul-Adha, I reared and fattened 88 cows. I have already sold 45. Hopefully, the rest will also be sold in the next two days."
During a visit to the port city's traditional animal market in Bibir Haat on Sunday, this correspondent talked to Sohel Sharif, an expatriate from Oman.
He said, "I am unable to go to Oman due to the pandemic restrictions imposed by the Omani government. As I have no source of income in the country and am struggling to run my family, I decided to invest in this seasonal business of selling sacrificial animals."
"I had Tk4 lakh in savings. In a joint venture with two of my friends, we bought nine bulls from Natore for Tk12 lakh. We sold five bulls for Tk8 lakh till yesterday (Saturday) afternoon. Even if the remaining bulls are sold at the purchase price, each of us will make a Tk30,000 profit," he added.
Meanwhile, online animal markets have also become quite popular in Chattogram this year due to the pandemic. According to the Department of Livestock Services, sacrificial animals worth Tk981.69 crore, sold online in Chattogram division till 16 July. During this time, nationally, animals worth Tk1,832.98 crore have been sold online.
In the port city, young farmers and students are doing well also, selling animals online. Sohel Rana, assistant manager of Nahar Agro Group, said, "We had 450 cows ready for sale. As of last Friday, 187 cows have been sold. Most buyers choose their animals online and come to take the cows later."
Elsewhere, Ziabul Islam, a farmer from Satkania, sitting under the Akhtaruzzaman flyover in Muradpur with two cows, said, "I bought two cows from my village home and came to Bibirhat market in town in hope of making a decent profit. But the market management did not allow let me in, so I am trying to sell the cows here."
Arif Chowdhury, running the Bibirhat cattle market business, said, "I have taken the market on lease for a huge sum of money, but the number of independent seasonal traders who sell outside is higher this year, and they are selling cows at lower prices. Sales are low at our leased market. I am worried whether I will even be able to break even and make back the money I spent to lease the cattle market this Eid."
Md Ashraful Alam Khan, acting director of the Chattogram Division Livestock Department, said, "Compared to previous years, the sale of animals outside of leased markets has gone up this year. This year, as many as 5,000 seasonal traders are selling animals online and in the lanes and alleys of the city. Many buyers are also inclined to buy animals from outside so as to avoid paying market fees and the risk of being infected."