The price of sacrifice

With the purchasing power of consumers having gone down as a result of the Covid pandemic, animal breeders and sellers fear they may not make enough money this year

Every year around Eid ul Azha, cattle markets across the country witness large crowds of both adults and children, making their way to buy sacrificial animals. However, this year much has changed. With the ongoing pandemic, the government has imposed a series of lockdowns over the past four months and issued standard operating procedures to ensure public safety in these times. This year, cattle markets will not allow the elderly and children.

But Ghulam Qadir, an animal breeder from Rajanpur, says children, and even women, were his main customers. In the wake of the Covid threat, children are no longer visiting the cattle market. For Qadir, this means he will not be able to get the right price for his animals. “We rear them with great affection. It is hard work,” he says. He says his wife Maryam Bibi rears their Beetal (also known as the Rajanpuri goats) with great affection and care, feeding them milk, almonds, nuts, fruits, grains and desi ghee. To some this may sound like exaggeration but Qadir claims that charpoys are provided for sacrificial goats, on which “they sit like kings”. “Our children might risk being underfed but not our goats. We provide them healthy diet.”

Qadir says they favour the Rajanpuri breed as it attracts those looking for sacrificial animals in cattle markets. “Due to its extraordinary height and white coat, I am able demand high prices,” he says. “Many customers used to pay the asking price. This year, they are bargaining to buy the same animals at lower prices.” According to him, last year he had sold many such goats at high prices. This year his profit margin is smaller. So far, he has sold only one goat for Rs 150,000.

The average weight of his goats is 55 kgs. In some cases, the weight surpasses 80 kgs. Such trophy goats may fetch Rs 200,000 or more. “Two kilograms of milk and two kilograms of grain concentrate (wanda) are given to these animals daily to achieve the target weight,” he tells The News on Sunday.

Dr Sajjad Sanghi, the director at the Veterinary Research Institute (VRI), says there are 36 types of goats in Pakistan. Based on weight and appearance, the prices of sacrificial animals vary widely, he says. At times, he says people are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of rupees for a prize animal. The Beetal breed, Dr Sanghi says, is loved for its ‘beauty’, colour and height. He says the Jattan breed is usually raised in Mirpur Khas, Sindh. It has an average weight of 70 kgs. Pateri, with an average weight of 68 kgs, is raised mostly in Sanghar, Tando Adam and Shahdadpur. Kamori goats are found mostly in Hyderabad, Nawabshah and Larkana. Each of these weighs an average of 60 kgs.

“Many customers used to pay the asking price. This year, they are bargaining to buy the same animals at lower prices,” says Ghulam Qadir, an animal breeder from Rajanpur.

Usman Khaskheli, a vendor from Kashmor, Sindh, brings sacrificial animals including bulls, cows and camels to Karachi’s Sohrab Goth cattle market. Khaskheli says he purchases these animals from his relatives and people in his hometown and pays them after selling these in Karachi. This year, he says, the situation is different. He says there are 50 percent less buyers this year. Khaskheli says because of slow business due to lockdowns the purchasing power of many people has gone down. He says the prices for animals this year are not even comparable to last year’s.

Quoting the Sohrab Goth cattle market administration, he says that last year 500,000 animals were sold for Rs 6 billion. While there is no shortage of animals, he says, this year there are far fewer buyers. “Some of the vendors might have to return to their hometowns without selling their animals because they cannot get a suitable price.”

The need for online buying and sacrificial services has increased during the pandemic. There are many online platforms providing online buying and sacrificial services.

Kamran Khan from Dera Ismail Khan says this is the first time he is selling animals online. But while people are approaching him, they don’t want to pay the amount he asks for. “Because of coronavirus businesses are down and so is the purchasing power of customers.”

The writer is a reporter for The News in Lahore. He can be reached at [email protected]

The price of sacrifice: Animal sellers fear they may not make enough money this year due to COVID-19