Most online marketplaces for sacrificial animals are reportedly charging 30-50 percent higher than what makeshift physical markets do.
Ahead of the upcoming Eid-ul-Adha, online cattle sales are expected to boom with many buyers avoiding Qurbani haats (markets) to maintain social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, but excessive prices now appear to be driving away many potential buyers.
Different digital shops are selling cows at Tk350-400 per kg based on their live weights, meaning that a bull weighing 375 kg sells at a maximum of Tk150,000 digitally, but its price in a physical market should not be more than Tk1 lakh, buyers said.
The price of a cow at Qurbani haats depends on a tentative quantity of meat, said Alamgir Hossain, a cattle trader at a makeshift market in the capital.
The quantity of meat from a cow is not more than 55 percent of its live weight. "We may get 100-120kg of meat from a bull weighing 200kg," said Munir Hossain, a butcher.
"The prices that online marketplaces are offering are undoubtedly very high," said Dr Habibur Rahman, 60, a resident of the capital's Basabo area, who browsed through the sites of many online shops.
He still has to buy online to avoid crowds in the markets during the pandemic, he added.
The online sellers are taking advantage of people refraining from going to markets for fear of contracting coronavirus.
Denying the allegations, Kazi Kawser Sweet, assistant manager at othoba.com, said, "Our prices are still low considering the quality of our cattle."
Md Hares, the head of Bengal Meat's Qurbani project, said, "There is no question of selling cattle at high prices. If we do so, people will move away from online platforms."
Replying to a query, he said, prices of cattle vary based on breeding location, colour, size and weight.
"We test each of our cattle before uploading their pictures on our site, and the checkup will continue till these are sold so that we can provide our buyers with healthy cattle. This process has pushed prices up to some extent," he added.
Ranu Akter, another resident of the Basabo area, said, "I know they charge higher prices for sacrificial animals. But, I have to buy from them as I cannot go to the physical markets."
Abdul Waheed Tamal, general secretary of the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh, said cattle prices on online markets are not high. The cattle are of better quality. The cattle are selling at Tk375-475 per kg against their live weights."
Some special cattle cost more as farmers reared them for a long time in the hope of getting reasonable prices, he added.
While talking about the Dhaka North City Corporation's "Digital Haat", he said, "This is not the government-run haat. The government has just made a platform where 53 traders are selling their cattle."
Asked about selling animals at high prices on the "Digital haat", he said, "We are trying to sell cattle at lower prices here." "We remove cattle from the site once any price violation is found."
Asked about the slaughtering service, he said, "We take 20 percent of a sacrificial animal's price for this service."
Moreover, a good number of online shops that are offering slaughtering services charge 15-20 percent of a cow's price.
Some of them further take delivery charge up to Tk2000, said Kazi Kawser Sweet, assistant manager at othoba.com. It costs Tk6,000-10,000 depending on cattle weight (200kg-500kg), he added.
Bengal Meat charges Tk16000-25000 depending on cattle prices.
Belayet Talukder, a butcher, said, the online platforms charge high for slaughtering services too.
"We never take more than 10 percent of a cow's price, sometimes less than that," he added.
Md Hares said, "We have an international standard slaughterhouse and an expert team for processing animals. We also examine the animal so that no sick animal is sacrificed."