As domestic livestock production has multiplied manifold in the last decade, meat and dairy are now in surplus in Bangladesh. However, 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).
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.
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.