The festival of sacrifice, Eid-ul-Adha, will be a blend of innovation and technology this year, for the sake of safety in the capital, Dhaka. With calls for fewer makeshift cattle markets in Dhaka, online cattle sales through e-commerce and f-commerce - a digital marketplace for qurbani haats (markets) - are fulfiling the demand for sacrificial animals during this Eid.
To make things easier and safer for city-dwellers, many meat processing, fattening, and dairy farms are offering a "full qurbani service" to customers. This is a fairly new concept for Bangladesh, but there are other countries which have adapted to such services for a number of years now.
Many Muslims in Malaysia prefer purchasing cattle for sacrifice and send those over directly to an abattoir. In fact, due to Covid-19, this year, the Malaysian government has banned open slaughter of animals. Only authorised slaughterhouses can carry out qurbani services.
Many European countries do not allow open slaughter of cattle. Muslims residing in countries like France, Germany, and Belgium can purchase cattle from farms or butcher shops, and get it processed from abattoirs.
Some entities in Bangladesh have been circulating this idea for years, but consumer response remained limited as Bangladeshis prefer carrying out the rituals themselves. However, the situation this year has made people open to adaptability as they are looking forward to safer ways which can limit the chances of the spread of coronavirus.
So, will 2020 be marked as the defining year for full qurbani services?
Bengal Meat is one of the pioneers in full qurbani service in the country and has been getting a very strong response this year. Its Head of Sales, Marketing, and Distribution, Sharfuddin Ahmed Chowdhury said, "We have seen significant growth in the number of customers availing this service. We believe this service will gain momentum by next year."
In Sharfuddin's opinion, the metro city is too congested for carrying out qurbani rituals. This year, while maintaining social distance, people have to carry out the process of sacrificing animals, cutting the meat, and cleaning the waste. This can be a difficult task and the pressure always falls on the Dhaka city corporation to clean up after Eid.
He said, "This year, we are going through some tough times, but we are learning to sacrifice animals in a clean, hassle-free and safe way. If we, as a whole, can retain this heightened awareness, then I believe this full qurbani service will have high market demand."
In fact, since Bengal Meat started this year's Eid sales from July 3, all the customers have availed the full qurbani service as of now. This has encouraged many players to enter the market, including tech delivery companies such as Shebaxyz. Dairy farms, who took a hit during the shutdown because of falling milk sales, have also entered the fray to recoup some of their losses through cattle sales.
These dairy and fattening farms are offering "full qurbani services" that include meat processing and delivery services to customers. The full package can be very beneficial to people who cannot risk carrying out the entire process at their residence.
Most dairy and fattening farms expected a good amount of revenue from qurbani sales this year. In 2019, the supply of Eid livestock was around 1.04 crores and for 2020, 1.19 crore cattle are ready to meet the demand.
The revenue from qurbani sales, however, helps many marginal farms to sustain for the rest of the year and the growth of e-commerce sale in cattle and full qurbani services risk putting these farmers in jeopardy.
Mojid Mia, a farmer residing in Kashembazar village of Bhuruingamari Upazilla, Kurigram raised four bulls to sell them in this year's haat.
He said, "I could not make it to Dhaka because of the virus. Now I have four more mouths to feed for the rest of the year and I do not have the means to pay for my expenses."
The farmers have to spend an average of Tk3,000 each month behind one single bull.
Like Mojid Mia, thousands of farmers who raised cattle for this Eid-ul-Adha will be unable to sell their livestock due to this pandemic. People are reluctant to visit haat-bazars this Eid, which means the livestock will be sold at a much lower price than last year. Also, the fall in buyer's purchasing capacity due to the economic downturn is adding further worry to their woes.
According to various studies, farmers meet around 70 percent demand for sacrificial animals during Eid. Dairies and fattening farms have managed to adapt to the new normal with the help of technology. But, farmers in rural areas lack the resources that will allow them to enter this new market.
According to Faisal Bin Maleque, one of the owners of Farmside Agro, 60 percent of the customers who purchased bulls from them will be availing the full qurbani services.
Farmside Agro had a total of 81 bulls for sale, and 68 of those have already been sold. The full qurbani service being offered includes meat processing, packaging, and safe delivery. It is being offered by the farm at a price range of Tk12,000-17,000; the rate varies according to the size of the bull and the distance of the delivery destination from the slaughterhouse.
Bulls weighing between 200kg and 400kg are being sold at the rate of Tk380 per kg. The ones weighing more than 400kg are expected to be sold at the rate of Tk400-450 per kg. Most farms offering full qurbani services have taken to offering a set price per kg on their sacrificial cattle. The price, however, varies from farm to farm and depending on the size of the cattle.
The live weight pricing can be very beneficial to customers as they can compare the rates. Analysing the price of a bull according to its weight takes away the hassle of bargaining as well.
Faisal said, "During such a challenging time, farms are now redesigning their business strategy. The full quarbani service is one such example. We have already witnessed the shift in the demand for this service and it will surely follow the years to come."
Now, customers can sit at home, watch live feed of the cattle, assess the price, or even book an appointment and visit farms in person. Customers will be able to check on the environment of the farm and process through which the cattle are kept and raised.
R M Agro, another farm, located in Bosilla, has introduced new technology to their qurbani service. Not only have they sold all their cattle live on Facebook till now, they are also using modern equipment to process the meat.
"Our advanced abattoir set-up has efficiently expanded our capacity; we can process 75 cattle in just three days. Using machines allows us to process the meat faster than usual and provide the customers with finer cuts," said Rayhan Morshed, owner of RM Agro.
So far, the farm has sold 90 percent of its livestock – 109 bulls, out of which, nine customers availed the full qurbani service.
"This is the first year we are offering this service and so far, around 8 percent of our customers have availed it. I certainly hope the percentage will double next year and keep increasing in the years to come," said Rayhan.
In his view, the full qurbani service ensures customers efficient meat processing and it is more hygienic than the traditional process. "Professional butchers know how to cut meat. People can lose around 10kg of meat if the cutting is not up to the mark. Compared to 'one-day' butchers hired by city-dwellers, professionals can carry out the job effectively while keeping safety concerns in mind."