POST TIME: 15 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Abnormal drop in prices
Govt allows export to tackle rawhide ‘syndicates’
Special Correspondent, Dhaka

Govt allows export to tackle rawhide ‘syndicates’

Seasonal hide traders incur heavy loss as rawhide prices drop heavily during the Eid-ul-Azha. The photo was taken from Agrabad in Chattogram city on Tuesday. Star Mail Photo

 The government has taken stern action against rawhide syndicates, as seasonal traders in several parts of the country are being forced to leave rawhide on streets unsold or bury them following a steep fall in prices. Commerce minister Tipu Munshi has blamed rawhide traders for the abnormal fall in prices. Seasonal rawhide traders and tanners blamed a ‘syndicate’ as the price of cattle rawhide began to drop on the evening of Eid Day.

Half of the total number of cattle slaughtered in Bangladesh is done during Eid-ul Adha. Muslims slaughtered around 125 million cattle this year, according to a government estimate. Normally wholesalers buy the rawhide and skin of sacrificial animals from seasonal traders and sell these to tanners. The 220 tanneries in Bangladesh process around 2.5 billion square feet of hide and skin annually, while 93 large and listed footwear producing firms make more than 378 million pairs.

“The government will take stern action against those involved in rawhide syndication considering the intensity of the offence. Rawhide is being sold at the lowest price ever,” road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader said yesterday. Regarding the allegation of syndication, the minister said: “I am not well aware of this matter. Syndicates exist in our country, but an impartial investigation is needed. A vested quarter is involved to gain personal interest.”

Quader also said action would be taken against whoever was involved. When his attention was drawn to a BNP leader’s allegation that an Awami League leader was involved in the rawhide syndicate, Quader, who is also the general secretary of the AL, said: “Tell him (the BNP leader) to furnish evidence. It is an old habit of the BNP to make sweeping allegations. We will investigate the matter.”

Commerce minister Tipu Munshi yesterday alleged that rawhide traders were involved in a conspiracy to lower the prices, although the government had fixed the price of rawhide and skin. “This is not acceptable as the traders and the government had fixed the rawhide prices at a meeting before Eid. But we noticed that the prices dropped abnormally on Eid day. So, we have decided to allow the export of rawhide,” he told reporters at his Rangpur residence yesterday.

He also said that the government did not want any harm done to the leather industry. Earlier, on Tuesday, the government decided to give permission to export rawhide to ensure fair prices for the traders, said an official handout.

The handout, issued by commerce ministry, also sought the cooperation of traders to ensure the buying and selling of rawhide at prices fixed by the ministry. It said that  rawhide was not being sold and bought at the prices fixed by the authorities concerned. “The ministry is urging the traders related with the rawhide business to be more responsible,” the handout added.

It also urged the traders to properly preserve rawhide. The commerce ministry urged the divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners, upazila nirbahi officers (UNO) and other officials to take effective steps in thus regard.

This year, the per square foot cowhide price for Dhaka had been fixed at Tk. 45–50, while it was Tk. 35–40 for the rest of the country. Besides, the price of male goat hide had been fixed at Tk. 18–20, while that of a female goat was Tk. 13–15.

But leaders of the Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) have urged the government to withdraw its decision to export rawhide, saying the move would cause a scarcity of rawhide for the local industry. BTA president Shahin Ahmed demanded withdrawal of the government’s decision to export rawhide at a press conference at its office in city’s Dhanmondi area yesterday morning.

“We will start collecting rawhide from August 17. In the meantime, the rawhide market will hopefully remain stable. We hope that the government will review its decision to export rawhide,” he said.

Shahin Ahmed also said the government’s decision would threaten the leather, leather product, and footwear industries as rawhide export would make the raw material scarcer in the domestic markets. “The modern leather industry in Savar will be completely stranded due to the lack of raw leather. Now, if the government allows exports of rawhide, our investment will be compromised. Investments worth Tk. 7,000 crore in the leather industry will be at risk,” he added.

Asked whether the tanners’ association was involved pushing down rawhide prices, Shahin Ahmed said: “We don’t buy rawhide. Usually, wholesalers buy the hide and skin of sacrificial animals from seasonal traders and sell them to tanners.”