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Beef import economically detrimental to country

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05th-Jan-2018       
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Bangladesh will start exporting beef within two years as the nation is likely to become self-sufficient in meat production by that time. Newly appointed Fisheries and Livestock Minister Narayan Chandra Chanda is reported to have stated this in a report. He rejected a proposal given by some businessmen to import beef from India. Local farmers would be seriously affected if beef is imported from India. The acceptance of the businessmen's proposal would be a suicidal decision were his comments as per the report.
The meat price has dropped by about Tk. 100 per kg. Beef is now selling for Tk. 400-450 per kg in the kitchen markets. The department concerned was trying to improve the quality of beef with a view to export it, Chanda noted.
Earlier, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Md Shafiul Islam (Mohiuddin) had suggested that the government should import beef from India to meet the country's protein demand, which, he said, remained unfulfilled because of the high price of red meat in local markets.
Every year over 5 million cows are sacrificed across the country during Eid-ul-Azha. Four in every five of these are supplied by local farmers, with the rest of the demand met by cattle from Myanmar and India, according to the Department of Livestock Services (DLS).  DLS data shows that, of the 54.6 million animals reared on 525,000 farms across the country, 11.6 million of them are reared for Eid-ul-Azha. In 2016, a total of 10.5 million animals were sacrificed and this year, the DLS estimates the number will rise to 11.5 million.
So it stands to reason that there exists only a marginal need to import cows from India—and none at all to import beef. If whole cows are brought, the per kg cost of beef would be much cheaper as most of the additional value added services like processing the meat would stay in Bangladesh and contribute to the economy.
However bringing beef will be economically detrimental to Bangladesh as most of the cost of buying the beef will go out of the country - thus hurting our forex reserves. The current informal trade in cows is not conducted in dollars but in rupees and takas, hence our dollar reserves stay mostly intact as the trade is informal. If we shift it to formal channels, we would have no choice but to pay in  dollars.
There are more reasons for not buying beef from other sources. We need to establish our own agricultural sector first. Making our primary sector self sufficient should be our first priority - so it follows that we should make our beef production more cost effective and sustainable instead of doing things which would inject revenues into other nation's coffers. Ultimately reduced cow and beef imports from India will increase beef prices and it will encourage our own farmers to grow cows - thus negating the need for bringing in more cows or beef from India.

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