The annual meat consumption demand in Bangladesh is 7.3 million tonnes, against which the country is producing 7.6 million tonnes
The industry is missing out on exporting to the international halal meat market
As domestic livestock production has multiplied manifolds in the last decade, meat and dairy are now in surplus in Bangladesh. But imports are preventing the local industry from flourishing and exporting to meet the demands of the burgeoning international halal meat market, said industry insiders.
Almost 100% of the demand for sacrificial animals during Eid-ul-Azha is being met with locally reared livestock, according to meat traders.
In the last couple of years, production volume surpassed the demand and generated around 300,000 tons of surplus meat.
The annual meat consumption demand in Bangladesh is 7.3 million tons, against which the country is producing 7.6 million tons, according to the Department of Livestock Services (DLS).
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However, meat is still being imported from neighbouring China, Myanmar, Nepal, and India.
Importing meat from abroad is hurting the domestic industry, said AFM Asif, CEO of Bengal Meat Processing Industries.
Furthermore, the leather industry will be badly hit if cattle rearing as an economic activity loses attractiveness due to large scale imports, he added.
“As we have a surplus of meat, Bangladesh has infinite opportunities for exporting to the global halal meat industry, which is worth about $500 billion,” said Asif, who also leads Bangladesh Halal Meat Processing Industries Association.
With the ongoing livestock production growth trend, whatever surplus Bangladesh produces can be exported with necessary slaughterhouse capacity development, he added.
Currently, all poultry and red meat producers can produce around 50,000 tons of meat per year, he further said.
Since 2014, after the ban on Indian cattle trade, Bangladesh witnessed a huge surge in livestock farming, especially among rural youths seeking self-employment.
In addition, this sector involves 522,000 commercial farms and 3.7 million households. Around 15 million people are directly engaged with livestock production and indirectly it affects another 25 million people, said Asif.
“When we have a surplus of meat and dairy, it is not rational to import the product,” said Md Ahad Sardar, proprietor of Sardar Dairy and Cattle farm in Rajshahi.
To save the local livestock farmers, the government should facilitate the sector for export, he added.
Another livestock farmer, Bakhtiar Mahmud from Kishoreganj, said they are producing world-class meat in the country under the supervision of local livestock departments.
“If the import of cheaper sub-standard meat continues, we will be affected badly and have to shut our farms,” he further said.
Retail meat seller at Azimpur Md Al Faruk said that in their shop, they stopped selling imported meat as customers several times claimed that the meat quality is not right and once cooked, the meat tastes very different from local meat.
According to industry sources, livestock industry-driven manure production is very critical for the entire agriculture sector of Bangladesh.
Around Tk55,000 crore rolls into the Bangladeshi economy behind cattle and goat rearing activities, 70% of which transaction happens among the poor and ultra-poor population, according to Bangladesh Halal Meat Processing Industries Association.
General Manager of the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and livestock expert Sharif Ahmed Chowdhury said imported meat will create poverty among rural people, especially the agricultural entrepreneurs.