DHAKA, Bangladesh – Think of it like the Amazon, but for cows, goats and sheep. And this holiday season, sales are exploding.
Each year, farmers in Bangladesh, home to around 10 percent of the world’s Muslim population, raise millions of animals for sacrifice on the Eid al-Adha festival, the commemoration of a sacrifice made by the prophet Abraham. Families flock to the markets to choose the best animals for their celebrations.
But this year, amid an increase in coronavirus infections across the country, buyers and sellers have increasingly moved this interaction online.
Farmers feared around 12 million animals for sale, worth billions of dollars, would be affected after the government announced a pandemic lockdown in the weeks leading up to the festival.
At the last minute, the government eased restrictions to allow holiday shopping to inject some life into the economy, much to the chagrin of health experts who said overcrowded livestock markets could become dots hot from infection. In an effort to reduce some of the crowds, officials set an ambitious goal: to sell 25 percent of sacrificial livestock online at virtual livestock markets.
Since the push began this month, farms of all sizes, local cooperatives and even individual villagers have uploaded their herds. Some of the more experienced online sellers have gotten a head start by posting well-lit photographs of their livestock with slick labels, and even posting the animal’s vaccination status.
For others, tech-savvy middlemen stepped in to provide photography and video services in exchange for a commission. One platform even has a webcam footage section where potential buyers can watch the animals live.
Others offered a more personal touch.
“If you want, you can watch the cows directly from the farmer’s house via video call,” wrote one seller, advertising a cow weighing 670 pounds and with an 84-inch breast.
Tuesday, before the festival in Bangladesh, nearly 390,000 animals had been sold through hundreds of merchants and online platforms, according to the government department of livestock. It was far from the target, but an increase of at least 10 times the estimated online sales in local media for the last year.
Cows and buffaloes were chosen, followed by goats and sheep.
Rafiqul Ranju, who runs a small transport service in the infamous congested capital Dhaka, said: “The main problem is heavy traffic around urban areas – it has been very difficult to deliver the animals on time.
A major boost to online sales came when several private and government entities teamed up to introduce a service called Digital Haat this month, bringing together more than 50 traders with access to nearly 500 livestock markets in one. website. The platform is banking on the rise of digital payments in Bangladesh to strengthen its efforts.
To help small farmers, Digital Haat provides step-by-step instructions on how to market their stock. First: clean the animal and photograph it in front of a wall with a measurement marker to show its exact height, or next to a shepherd to at least give an idea of its size. Next: Make sure all members are visible. And if the animal is vaccinated or has had a health check, download the certificate.
“Take a photo of the animal in a beautiful location,” the instructions say. “Take a picture of the teeth so you can see how many have grown well. “
But whether or not the advice was followed seemed to matter little, as evidenced by record sales and a scrolling of posts from some of the recently purchased animals.
Goat 191, weighing 48 pounds, shown grazing on fresh vegetables in short video: sold. Bull 0505, weighing around 750 pounds and filmed from every angle in its shed in a video to cheerful music: sold.
And then there was Cow 103, at 727-760 pounds. Of the three photographs uploaded, the animal’s limbs and teeth are not visible. But the owner proudly stands beside him in his undershirt. Cow 103 also sold.
Digital Haat aims to be an equalizer, hosting experienced vendors as well as cooperatives and smaller farms.
Kamrun Nahar, a 36-year-old woman from Gaibandha, a small town north of Dhaka, said she sold two cows through one of the dealers listed on Digital Haat.
“I think these online platforms have given us a great opportunity to sell animals so easily – we no longer have to go to the market, rent a car or chase people to deal with the animals,” he said. Ms. Nahar said. mentionned. “At no additional cost, we can now sell directly from home. “
Buying sacrificial animals for Eid al-Adha has traditionally been a family affair, with several members going to the market together to haggle, give their opinion and try to avoid getting ripped off. The involvement of government agencies and established business associations in the online platforms appears to have allayed some – but not all – reservations about not conducting in-person negotiations.
“The response we have received in digital livestock markets so far is huge,” said Shah Emran, general secretary of the Bangladesh Dairy Farmers Association, a group involved in setting up Digital Haat. But, he noted, trust was still a barrier.
“Buyers ask more about sellers than animals,” he said, some wary of trusting traders on a new platform.
Sheikh Abdus Sobhan, a resident of northeast Dhaka who said he was in his 50s, logged into Digital Haat on Sunday after his evening prayer. He chose a cow and called the merchant to finalize the deal. But he was told the animal was already sold. The traders sent him two more cows available online, which Mr. Sobhan checked and approved.
“After confirming the reservation, they sent their representatives around midnight to get the cash advance,” Sobhan said Tuesday. “They finally delivered the cows this morning.
His biggest concern, he noted, was whether they would actually deliver the cows advertised.
“But by the grace of God,” he said, “we had the same cow that we saw on the website. “