Many people across the country who sacrificed goats and/or sheep this Eid-ul-Azha have left the rawhides of the animals on the street as they could not sell those at the government-fixed prices as in the previous several years.
Some traders even refused to accept the rawhides despite being offered for free.
Against such a backdrop, people concerned fear that the hides of all of some 40 lakh goats and sheep sacrificed this year would be wasted. But, the Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) estimates that the figure would be around 5-6 lakh.
People did not get fair prices for the rawhides of the sacrificed cattle either.
BTA Chairman Md Shaheen Ahamed thinks that even though prices of leather and leather products are high in the international market, Bangladesh is not getting the benefits as it lacks Leather Working Group (LWG) certification.
While speaking at a press conference at Dhanmondi Club in the capital on Wednesday, he said, "We have to sell products of the same quality at half the rates in other countries. And because of this, prices of raw hides are also low in Bangladesh."
Even 10 years ago, a good quality cattle skin was sold for Tk3,000 in the country, but prices have been very low for the past several years. This time too, on average, the rawhide of a large-sized cattle has been sold for Tk800-850, even though the use of leather products has increased and they are also being exported abroad.
BTA Chairman Shaheen Ahamed said, "Prices of leather products or leather have not decreased abroad. We cannot sell the leather we are producing to brand buyers. Because we are non-compliant, we are selling a $2 product to a Chinese buyer for $1. But they then sell it at a higher price."
He also said until 2015 when the issuance of LWG certificates began, Bangladeshi traders could sell leather and leather products to brands as there were no rigid restrictions like the LWG certification.
"If we want to bring back the brand buyers, we need to obtain certificates from the LWG. If 30-40 tanneries in the country can obtain the certificates, our exports will double in one year. Then, prices of raw hides will also go up," he maintained.
To secure an LWG certificate, a factory has to be run without harming the environment. But tanneries in Bangladesh are fully non-compliant in this respect.
Shaheen Ahamed said "We are trying to obtain LWG certification. However, the government is yet to provide environmental clearance to the Savar Tannery Estate, which is an obstacle to getting LWG certificates."
No buyers for goat hides
Arifur Rahman brought 300 pieces of goat hides from a madarasa to Dhaka's Posta on the next day of Eid. But he did not find any buyer.
"The merchants categorically said they will not take the rawhides if I give them those for free," Arifur told TBS.
Seasonal rawhide trader Mofijul Islam was in trouble after bringing 100 pieces of goat hide to Posta. "I don't know what the syndicate did. No one is buying goat hides," he added.
According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, 99.50 lakh cattle including 41.60 lakh goats and lambs were sacrificed on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha this year.
Bangladesh Tanners' Association (BTA) Chairman Md Shaheen Ahmed said goat hides are usually 2 to 2.5 square feet which are less in demand in the global market. The prices hardly cover the cost of chemicals required for skin processing.
However, Bangladesh Hide and Skin Merchants' Association President Aftab Khan told TBS that 20 tanneries used to buy goat hides, but only two tanneries now buy those. Due to low demand, 50% of goat hides in Dhaka have been wasted.
Goatskins dumped here and there
"We have bought about 20,000 pieces of goatskin at Tk10-20 per piece. The problem was that although tanners were supposed to take the rawhides, they did not do so this time," said Abul Bashar, chairman of the rawhide traders body at Harindhara, a rawhide hub near the Leather Industrial Estate in Savar.
As a result, rawhide collectors expressed their reluctance to buy goatskins, he told TBS.
Shahin Hossain is a seasonal rawhide trader. He came to sell his collected rawhides at a wholesale hub at Hili's Munsipatti.
"Buying cowhides at Tk400 per piece, I have sold those at Tk300-350. What happened with goat hides was even more miserable. I had to give those without exchange of money," he told TBS.
"We did not buy goat rawhides as their demand was very low in tanners. Moreover, the price of salt [key processing ingredients] was very high. So, it might have brought losses for us," said Swapan Munshi, a warehouse owner of the hub.
Sheikh Mominul Majid, organising secretary of the Greater Jashore Leather Traders' Association, echoed the same.
"Many goatskins were damaged due to lack of processing," he added.