Some 1.2 crore livestock rearers, who have raised sacrificial animals targeting Eid-ul-Adha, have been counting days in despair as the government has announced a strict lockdown to prevent the surge in Covid-19 infections across the country.
The situation has triggered uncertainty over economic activities involving the cattle market and leather industry as well as refrigerator, fashion, and spice markets worth around Tk50,000 crore centring the festival.
Economists say the lockdown is necessary to contain the spread of Covid-19 infections, but it will not be possible to make up for the huge losses caused by it.
They have advised the government to strengthen the supply system as well as provide cash for the people.
Executive Director of the Policy Research Institute Ahsan H Mansur told The Business Standard the loss must be accepted for the sake of saving lives.
He said the supply chain needs to be smoothened so that cattle owners do not face huge losses.
According to the Department of Livestock Services, around 1.19 crore animals have been reared keeping Eid-ul-Adha in sight this year. Those include 46 lakh cows and 73 lakh goats and sheep.
Many people have suffered income losses due to the pandemic. Many middle-class people who sacrifice animals during Eid-ul-Adha may not do so this year.
Livestock rearers are afraid that if animal sales fall, prices will also go down. The government's decision to impose a strict lockdown has fuelled their fear.
Sources say around Tk35,000-40,000 crore is transacted centring only the sales of animals during Eid-ul-Adha.
If the Covid-19 situation does not become normal, the number of animals that will be sacrificed will decrease. It will also affect other related sectors.
Leather sector insiders said more than 1.5 crore rawhides are collected in the country every year and about 80% of it comes from sacrificial animals.
They said the rawhide market size is more than Tk10,000 crore, including a Tk4,000-5,000 crore main leather market.
If the pandemic situation does not improve, the future of millions of people associated with this huge economy will be uncertain, they added.
Shahin Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Tanners Association, said there is a stock of unsold leather worth Tk500-600 crore in tanneries due to the lack of demand in the market.
If the situation does not return to normalcy, it will be difficult for tannery owners to buy new leather, he added.
The spice market also has a stake in this economy. The demand for onion in the country is 22 lakh tonnes every year while it is five lakh tonnes for garlic and three lakh tonnes for ginger.
A significant portion of these items is sold during Eid-ul-Adha. A huge amount of other spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin, and bay leaf are also sold during this festival.
There is a Tk5,000 crore market for these products during Eid-ul-Adha, sources say.
Sohanur Rahman, a spice trader in the capital's Karwan Bazar, said a large amount of these spices is sold during Eid.
Sales were much lower last year due to the pandemic and it would also be the same due to the strict lockdown this time, he added.
Fashion, refrigerator markets in crisis too
The refrigerator market has been growing in the country for the last several years. At present, it has crossed Tk6,000 crore.
During Eid-ul-Adha, sales of refrigerators and deep freezers also increase. But the strict lockdown has worried refrigerator manufacturers.
Anish Mallick, chief executive officer of the refrigerator division of Walton Refrigerators, which has a 70% market share, said Eid-ul-Adha accounts for about 40% of total sales.
"We give various offers to customers during this festival. We are ready this year and have ensured adequate supplies of refrigerators in all the showrooms across the country," he said.
He also said they would sell products maintaining health safety rules as per the government guidelines.
The clothing and fashion market is largely dependent on Eid-ul-Fitr. But at least 10% of clothes are sold during Eid-ul-Adha.
Traders see no hope of good sales this year due to the pandemic. Shaheen Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Fashion Designers Association and the proprietor of Anjan's, said local fashion houses had lost thousands of crores of taka due to the pandemic.
Although there was no great preparation for Eid, everyone had high hopes, he said.
More than five lakh people are involved in this sector and 80% of them are women while the pandemic has affected everyone's life, he added.
How was the last Eid-ul-Adha?
Last year, the country observed a muted Eid-ul-Adha festival due to the pandemic. The government relaxed the lockdown and allowed shopping malls and public transports to operate on a limited scale.
But about 1.3 million fewer animals were sacrificed last year than the previous year. Besides, compared to the target, 25 lakh fewer animals were sold.
According to the Department of Livestock Services, 1.19 crore sacrificial animals were prepared last year and 94 lakh of those were sacrificed.
Director of the Department of Livestock Services Bhabatosh Kanti Sarkar said the rate of this sacrifice increases every year.
But it decreased last year due to the pandemic and may decrease further this year, he added.