The Bangladesh Meat Traders Association secretary general Robiul Alam told GlobalMeatNews: "It’s a calamitous time... We’re ruined. Every day, prices of cows are rising as supply is short. If this trend continues, we can’t imagine where it can reach," he warned.
India’s current Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)-led government has encouraged Indian border guards to curtail illegal cattle exports to Bangladesh by 30% to 40% in the past two months, said Samik Bhattacharya, member of West Bengal state legislative assembly from the border district of Basirhat South. "Within the 15 kilometres of international border that runs through my constituency, it is down by 95%," he told GlobalMeatNews.
The impact is keenly felt in Bangladesh. Alam said prices per kilogram of beef had climbed by US$1.28 in Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Sylhet regions, two areas where meat consumption is powered by money sent home by expatriate Bangladeshis. Traders are the biggest casualty, he said, adding that almost half the country’s butcher’s shops were closed, impacting Bangladesh’s 160 million consumers.
"In Dhaka, you can hardly find a meat retail outlet that is fully open," he said. Alam said the government should allow cattle imports from neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar to ease the situation. "This will teach the BJP government a good lesson. We had a golden era during the Congress rule," he said. In the long term, he suggested that the Bangladesh government should boost domestic cattle farming.
Meanwhile, Indian Border Security Force (BSF) officers are even stopping cattle trucks from other Indian states from reaching frontier zones within West Bengal, said Bhattacharya. However, "the cattle smuggling is continuing through [the Muslim majority] Murshidabad and Malda districts [of the state]," he said.
According to local news reports, many farmers help the cattle smugglers, earning US$4 every night, although others are angered when passing cattle destroy their crops. The smugglers do not fear for their lives as the BSF uses only pellet guns and no live ammunition, except in self-defence, on the border with Bangladesh – considered a friendly country.
Also, Mohammed Salim, a national MP from West Bengal, belonging to Communist Party of India (Marxist), predicted the crackdown would not last: "This is a temporary thing," he said. "Smuggling includes gold and many other items, it is a parallel economy in which local politicians, BSF and topmost people are involved," said, "It is a huge money-minting machine which cannot be stopped completely." Bhattacharya estimated 10,000 people were involved in Indo-Bangladesh smuggling.