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Vigilance must continue against rawhide smuggling

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IF the allegations of tannery owners and rawhide traders are correct that said they do not get enough rawhide this year and fear that much of it may have gone out of the country or stocked to be smuggled need to be properly looked into. They have build their argument saying our neighbouring country has put embargo on slaughtering cattle in many states but the leather industry there needs rawhide to continue production. Many believe the allegation has enough credence but if the border security system fails to properly protect the country's vital interest, the loopholes must be effectively plugged. 

The reality is that Indian traders engage local agents who pay higher price and stock the rawhide for buyers across the border. Indian traders push in cattle and agents in Bangladesh push out rawhide. This is two-way traffic. This year the number of animals sacrificed across the country is estimated to be around 1.16 crore. But the collection of rawhide appears much less.

After relocated in Savar, the tannery industry would go to full-fledged production at their capacity level from this season but the scarcity of supply of rawhide may become a serious problem to many local tanneries. In this backdrop, we must say most stock of rawhide still remains in the hand of local agents who work for Indian buyers at this season and only heightened vigilance by our Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) may stop must of such smuggling.

Media reports said a total of 67 out of 155 tanneries started full-fledged operation at the Savar Tannery Estate. More than 100 tanneries are scheduled to start full-fledged operations from next month. Tanners have already invested over Tk 2,500 crore in Savar and many of them are in trouble as they did not get gas connections and facing higher charge for many other services. But if they don't get enough supply of rawhide their industry is bound to suffer. In a pre-Eid meeting, the government instructed police and BGB men to keep on high alert at the borders but much of its success is yet to be clear.

Leather and leather goods such as footwear are now major export items of the country as demands for Bangladesh made products in the West are growing for quality goods and fashionable designs. Leather and leather goods are now the second highest export earning products earning more than $1 billion annually over the last four consecutive years. The target is much higher for coming years.

The industry is based on collection of local rawhide throughout the year and particularly during Eid-ul-Azha. The number of animals slaughtered in the country in this Eid was more than ever before. But rawhide collection is falling short of anticipated target. In our view we have still time to stop smuggling and tanners can collect rawhide from border areas at an incentive price.   

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