The prices of sacrificial animal hides had plunged substantially during Eidul Azha this season. After the salting process, the hides are stored in warehouses in the anticipation that tanneries would buy them at a fair price. The other option is to sell the hides in the wholesale market through middlemen in Karachi and Lahore.

People associated with the business and cattle bazaars feel that the quantum of slaughtering had increased this year. This view was echoed by seminaries such as Hyderabad’s largest Darul Uloom Mazahirul Uloom. Keeping the dynamics of supply and demand in mind, an increase in the number of slaughtering is a major factor for the decrease in the price of hides this Eid.

“The number of animals we slaughtered as collective qurbani this Eid has increased from 320 last year to 368 this year. We bought those animals at prices varying from Rs55,000 to Rs62,000 from different markets of lower Sindh,” says Mufti Faseeh of Darul Uloom Mazahirul Uloom, Hyderabad.

Skins and hides of healthy animals are preferred by the value-added industry. During non-Eid routine slaughtering the average weight of animals is 1.5-2 maunds whereas during Eid the average weight is 4-6 maunds.

‘Those who were unable to sell their goats over Eidul Azha will have to incur losses of about Rs7,000 per animal’

“Last year, I purchased a cow or bull hide for Rs1,000-1,500 but this year the average rate was Rs600-700,” said Mohammad Hanif from Paretabad where most of the hide and skin warehouses are located. Similarly, a goat’s skin was sold for Rs90-100 against last year’s price of Rs300.

Given the cost of labour for the skins’ salting process, and that of managing the temperature during the summer season, traders made losses on the purchase of hides and skins due to their low resale value. A salted hide can be preserved for around 10 days before it is sold to wholesale dealers or tanneries. Tanneries have not yet started buying stocks.

Mr Hanif claims to have lost around 300-400 goat skins because of a lack of manpower. A labourer that preserves hides demands Rs25,000 for three days of work whereas workers that clean slaughtered skins charge Rs7,000-8000 for three days of work.

While unable to explain the price decline, an elderly hides’ trader Abdul Rasheed subscribed to Mr Hanif’s views that prices have decreased drastically. Last year the price of a cow’s skin was Rs1,600 but this year it was Rs650-700, Mr Rasheed said.

The monsoon season had a major adverse impact on the profits of traders of sacrificial animals. Rain, which continued intermittently almost till Eid, kept buyers away from the annual cattle markets. On one hand, buyers preferred purchasing animals from roadside markets; on the other hand, those who visited Sohrab Goth’s or Sukkur’s cattle bazaar offered lower prices for animals.

Many livestock owners agreed to sell them below expected prices to save miscellaneous expenditures amidst unfriendly weather conditions. Or else return home without selling them. Those who opted to return home with cattle were those who had healthy animals that could yield beef.

“Livestock owners who had taken their cattle to Sohrab Goth market — Sindh’s largest cattle market — had returned to our bazaar a day before Eid but they ended up suffering losses. They either didn’t sell them or had to accept lower rates”, says Azizullah Gabol, the contractor of Sukkur’s cattle market auctioned by Sukkur Municipal Corporation. A drop in the arrival of cattle was witnessed in Sukkur’s market as, according to Mr Gabol, around 700 animals were brought for sale this year whereas last year the number had been around 1,500-2,000.

According to Latif Qureshi of Tajiran Maveshian Association, foot and mouth disease was also reported among animals due to rains. Buyers were reluctant to visit Karachi’s market due to filth so they preferred to buy cattle from small mandis on roadsides.

“A goat weighing 10-15 kilograms was meant to be sold for Rs15,000 or about Rs1,500 per kg of mutton from a seller’s point of view. But those who were unable to sell the goats will be selling the meat for Rs800 in regular meat markets, resulting in losses of about Rs7,000 per goat,” Mr Qureshi said.

A healthy animal, be it a cow or a bull, ages if it is not sold by the owner by the next qurbani season and meat of such animals appears more red than usual. It won’t be cooked well, he added.

However, the business of waste obtained from slaughtered cows and bulls appears to be flourishing. Goat or cow’s tripe is cooked by people and sold in the market commonly. “But waste, called pota in business parlance, is consumed by the Chinese. We supply it to Karachi’s traders for Rs30 to Rs50 per piece,” Abdul Waheed told this writer while cleaning cow’s waste in the densely populated area of Paretabad to get pota.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, August 26th, 2019