PESHAWAR: Purchasers had to face a new dilemma in the cattle markets of the province in general and its capital, Peshawar, in particular on the penultimate day of Eidul Azha when sacrificial animals suddenly disappeared from the markets and the buyers were left with few options.
All the large cattle markets in the city, including Grand Trunk Road’s Kala Mandi, the Ring Road Mandi, Palosai Mandi, Sarband Mandi, Naguman Mandi, Scheme Chowk Mandi and Bakhshi Pool Mandi — set up exclusively for Eidul Azha — turned into gatherings of desperate buyers who searched high and low for sacrificial animals but to little avail.
Scores of buyers gathered on the few bull patches left at the Ring Road cattle market on Tuesday afternoon and it nearly turned into a bidding war with vendors holding out for more lucrative offers.
By evening, the market had completely run out of bulls and only a few buffalos were left and become the centre of focus for buyers. They had to choose between the buffalos, which were old and weak or opt for sheep and goats whose prices had skyrocketed with the shortage of large animals (bulls, cows and buffalos).
Speculations were rife about the smuggling of large animals to Afghanistan to circumvent a ban imposed by the caretaker provincial government, however, the ban was relaxed just a day before the shortage and the Pak-Afghan border was opened for animal transport at different spots.
The animal traders, however, said that the banned animal export to Afghanistan was not the reason behind the shortage rather it was the collapse of the market over the past three years which saw traders suffering heavy losses.
“Big animals are brought to Peshawar from Punjab both by traders of Punjab and locals but this year traders limited their stock and they also did not hold on to their animals for the night before Eid to maximise their profit,” explained Haji Wahab, a trader at the Ring Road cattle market who was wrapping up his cattle pen after selling his stock before heading back to Taunsa Sharif.
Usman Khan, a buyer in the market said that he had been searching for a bull at all the livestock markets of the city since noon but has not had any luck.
He said that the biggest thing keeping him back was that prices had doubled around noon since animals were in short supply with traders demanding between Rs200,000 to Rs250,000.
Zafar Khan, a resident of Bashirabad purchased a bull on the second day of Eid from a milk-seller in Nowshera after looking for one for two days.
“We thought we would get the animal on the night before Eid as we have no space to keep the animals but our decision was wrong and since a majority of the city’s residents had decided to purchase animals a day before Eid, the animals ran out,” he explained, adding that he and his brothers had searched all small and big markets of Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda.
He added that on the second day of Eid, a friend told him about a bull with a milk seller in Nowshera which was not for sale but they persuaded him to sell the bull.
“Wherever we went to check the bulls, we found bulls far too young for sacrifice and were not suitable for sacrifice,” he said.
Shah Hassan, a resident of Afridi Gari, who was taking his cow to the market for three consecutive days ahead of the shortage said that had barely received an offer of Rs70,000. But on Tuesday, owing to the shortage, he managed to sell the cow for Rs103,000.
“I had decided to keep my cow for milking but on Tuesday a friend called me from the market saying that the market had no cows and that prices were skyrocketing,” he said, adding that he sold it at the entrance of the market with buyers flocking to him.
Ex-Fata grapples with new laws
The merger of the tribal areas with the settled areas seems to have had an unintended effect on the pre-Eidul Azha cattle markets
A tribal cattle trader Ali Khan from the Khyber tribal district said that when the tribal districts were part of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), the movement of cattle was heavily regulated. But when the tribal agencies were merged into the province in June, the regulations were abolished.
As a result, residents of the tribal districts brought more cattle which could then be smuggled into Afghanistan.
The interim government had imposed a ban on the movement of cattle from one district to another but this was lifted by the newly elected government, causing mismanagement as a result locals were deprived of getting animals on time and at a low price.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM MUREEB MOHMAND IN SHABQADAR)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2018.