With the occasion of sacrifice -- Eid-ul-Azha -- only days away, cattle markets have sprung across the country both in traditional and digital ways but the turnout of buyers is still low apparently fearing the transmission of coronavirus.
To ease the hassle of traders, numerous online cattle markets have started operating. What is more interesting this year that the government endorsed online platforms replacing traditional cattle markets.
Many district administrations have created websites and mobile applications on their own and, in some cases, they are even operating those through Facebook pages.
A mobile application ‘Poshur Haat’, developed by Sirajganj district administration in collaboration with local-based Survival Family Technologies, is turning out to be a solution for the entire Rajshahi division.
Sirajganj DC Dr Faruk Ahmed and ADC ABM Rowshan Kabir conceived the idea of a unified online platform for the Rajshahi area to trade cattle.
Assistant Commissioner of Sirajganj Md Masudur Rahman, also the project manager of Poshur Haat App, told UNB that it has been developed in a way so that every district can be connected with this platform.
“Already, 1,656 farmers of eight districts have started trading through the app and website, and the transaction of Tk 81,17,992 have taken place...outside Rajshahi, the farmers of Bhola and Kishoreganj are also using our app,” he said.
Introduced on July 13, sacrificial animals can be traded using this app with granular controls for administrations in each district. The app is available on Google Play Store.
A ‘Super Admin’ from the control room in Sirajganj enables other district administrations’ access by creating the ‘District Administration Admin’ role. These two types of users mostly monitor app functionality and transactions.
Livestock Admins verify information provided by the sellers and approves them for trading. After the livestock admin verifies all the authenticity of the information and approves the seller, the seller will be connected to the app through it.
Masudur Rahman told UNB that the mobile application and site (www.poshurhaat.com) can be used even after Eid-ul-Azha to help out the impoverished small-scale farmers. “It’ll serve as a direct connection between farmers and livestock department...any animal from anywhere of the country can be sold through the app,” he said.
He said the app will help consumers avoid the risk of coronavirus infection from the traditional cattle market. “Also, the sellers will be benefitted because the app is completely free and they don’t need to pay any middleman,” he said.
In Cumilla, the district administration has taken an exceptional initiative starting an online sacrificial animal market to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.
Through the 'Cumilla Online Animal Market' app, buyers and sellers will be able to see cows available for buying on their mobile phones. “We’ve created this online platform to avoid health risks,” Deputy Commissioner of Cumilla Md Abul Fazal Meer said.
The app has been launched in collaboration with the district livestock office which has already uploaded the images of 20,000 cattle. Desired cattle will reach the buyer's house as soon as the price and choice are matched.
Narsingdi district administration has introduced a website titled 'Online Bikini: Narsingdi Korbani Hat' alongside 'Online Narsingdi Korbani Hat' mobile application on Saturday.
In addition to traditional sacrificial markets, buyers will be able to buy animals online at home through them.
These two Narsingdi-based online platforms include a list of butchers in the area. An initiative has also been taken to test them (butchers) for Covid-19 three days before Eid-ul-Azha.
On Tuesday, Faridpur district administration and district livestock department jointly launched 'Faridpur Online Korbanir Pashur Hat' Facebook page to ensure the sale and purchase of sacrificial animals online avoiding the crowds.
Through the page, one can purchase cows and goats at home and take delivery although there is an option for getting the processed meat delivered with additional charges.
Cattle farmers of the district can visit the group of the same name and post the pictures, weights and prices of cows and goats on their farms.
Alongside privately owned online platforms to buy and sell cattle, these government-backed sites and applications will surely help the citizens in remote areas to stay away from the traditional haats in the wake of Covid-19. However, experts are fearing that online cattle commerce could be oversaturated with alternatives this year.
With a view to limiting the possibility of the sacrificial cattle markets turning into Coronavirus hotspots, attendance at this year's haats across the country will be strictly regulated by the authorities.
Local Government and Rural Development (LGRD) Minister Md Tajul Islam disclosed as much in an online interview with UNB.
“Entry to haats will be regulated this year. Only one member of a family will be permitted to enter the market through a specific entry point,” he said.
Asked about the extra number of people besides buyers and sellers who crowd around haats usually, Minister Tajul confirmed that it is they who will face the severest restrictions this timne around. “We will try to prevent the entry of any spectator.”
Asked about maintaining health guidelines and social distancing in the capital and other cities and municipalities, the Minister said a meeting with the Ministries of Commerce and Home was held in this regard.
Underscoring the importance of the act of sacrifice at Eid-ul-Adha for Muslims, the attendees at the meeting said there would be no restrictions on sacrificing animals.
However, recognising the possibility of a busy day in the haats turning into what is known as 'super-spreader event', the government also backed the launch of a digital platform for buying and selling cattle.
“But it’s not easy to purchase animals online, the way we usually purchase clothes online,” Minister Tajul said, before carefully adding: “Despite that, I urge people to purchase sacrificial animals from online platforms.”
“Even if a small number of people purchase sacrificial animals from the online market, it will reduce gathering in other markets,” he added.
The LGRD Minister urged all concerned to arrange each haat over a larger space than usual in a disciplined way.
Urging people to enter animal markets being equipped with protective gears like face masks and caps, the Minister said “Only one member from a family is encouraged to come to the market”.
However, it is not possible for the government to totally ignore the fervour and enthusiasm that families experience over the entire process of qurbani - from selecting the cow or goat or whatever else, to completing the purchase, bringing it home and nurturing it all the way through to that final, fatal act in the Almighty’s name.
Therefore another meeting will be held in this regard, to finalize just how far to go with regulating people’s behaviour.
Besides the government, some private business entities have brought digital cattle markets (Qurbanir haat) to help the mass people in carrying out their religious duties overcoming the COVID-19 threat.
Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division, e-CAB, and Bangladesh Dairy Farmers' Association (BDFA) jointly launched the Digital Haat on July 7.
Digital Haat’s website is associated with 51 selling partners.
Website Address: https://www.digitalhaat.net/
Sacrificial animals are available on Bengal Meat website under the price range of Tk 30,000 to Tk 40 lakhs. Their displayed cattle vary in size and weight (50kg to 500kg).
Website Address: https://qurbani.bengalmeat.com/
Contact No. 09678-444-555 (Monday to Saturday, 9 AM - 6 PM)
Kings Red Meat
The Facebook cattle shop named ‘Kings Red Meat’ has also launched an online market for customers with the low-to-medium budget along with slaughtering and home delivery service.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/kingsredmeat/
Sadeeq Agro has also initiated to sell cattle through their website along with home delivery service after slaughtering.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Sadeeq-AGRO-620716257950017/
Contact: Call 01771777116, 01980008886, 01730135969
Besides these digital cattle markets, there are some other websites where sacrificial animals are available:
Power Division has finally asked all the power distribution entities to directly purchase electricity from solar mini-grid operators to save their investment.
According to sources at the Power Division, the distribution entities will now purchase electricity from mini-grids at a tariff to be settled through a tripartite negotiation on a case-to-case basis assessment.
“The private sponsors of mini-grids, the distribution entities concerned and the financing agency will set the tariff for the mini-grid projects through their joint assessment,” Mohammad Alauddin, Chairman of Sreda and Additional Secretary at the Power Division, told UNB.
Power Division officials said a letter was recently sent to all the power distribution entities to implement the government decision.
They said once the distribution entities start purchasing power from mini-grids, the consumers of their areas will get electricity at the same rate applicable in the grid areas.
“That means the consumers of these mini-grids will not require to pay higher bills for electricity while the mini-grid operators will get rid of their problem,” said a Power Division official.
According to the sources, 26 solar mini-grids, with their total generation capacity of 5 MW, were set up at different off-grid areas of the country as part of an initiative, “Remote Area Power Supply System (RAPSS)”, to ensure access of people living in remote areas to electricity.
These are mostly the remote islands of the country, said they said.
Under the RAPSS concept, the government allowed private investors to set up solar power plants and install mini-grids for a tenure of 20 years with financial support from the two financing agencies and sell electricity directly to the consumers of these remote areas.
The state-owned Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) made 80 percent of the financing in the projects while private investors 20 percent, they said.
The mini-grid operators sell electricity directly to consumers in their own rates settled under RAPSS policy where tariff is about Tk 30 per unit.
During implementation of the projects, there was commitment from the government that the power distribution companies will not reach these areas with their service within the project tenure of 20 years.
But the distribution utilities, especially the Rural Electrification Board (REB), expanded their power supply to those areas amid reported political pressure, said the sources.
When the government utilities moved to these areas, the consumers of the mini-grids gave up their connections from mini-grids and started taking new connections from power distribution utilities which put the sponsors and IDCOL in serious financial trouble.
Against this backdrop, the Power Division came up to save the mini-grids sponsors by taking a decision that the power distribution utilities will purchase electricity from the solar mini-grids like the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). It is now purchasing electricity from independent power producers (IPPs).
Lack of international accreditation for local testing laboratories has put the country’s solar module manufacturers into a big trouble in exporting their products and supplying those to projects.
According to official sources, there are two testing labs in the country to ascertain the quality and standard of solar panels and other relevant equipment.
One of the labs has been set up at state-owned Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) in Dhaka while another at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) has played a supportive role in setting up these two laboratories as it promotes the development of renewable energy in the country, the sources said.
But local solar module manufacturers are not happy with the facilities of these two laboratories as they do not have international accreditation.
“Since these two labs have no international accreditation, their certifications are not useful in businesses like supply of solar modules to local projects or export,” said Munawar Moin, president of Solar Module Manufacturers Association (SMMAB)
Munawar Moin said the supply of local solar products requires certificates from the laboratories which have accreditation from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), a global body.
The IEC has been the appropriate body for the accreditation of international standards and conformity assessment for all electrical, electronic and related technologies, he said.
Moin said the suppliers need the international certificate to qualify for supplying their products to foreign-funded projects while such certificates are also required for export business as well.
According to him, local labs can issue such certificates if they have IEC accreditation.
Admitting the lacking, Sreda chairman Mohammad Alauddin said Sreda will take initiatives so that the two labs can have the IEC accreditation to issue quality and standard certificates to local solar module manufacturers.
Former member of Sreda Siddique Zobair said if the local labs want IEC accreditation, they have to ensure certain compliances about standards as the international body will conduct audit every year.
According to solar industry insiders, there are nine local companies which now have the capacity to produce solar panels equivalent to about 100 MW against the current annual demand of similar level.
“But they now produce only 20MW equivalent panels for lack of government policy support while 80 MW is met by imported panels from China, India and some other countries.
“If we can have international standard certificates from local labs having international accreditation, it’ll help us increase both domestic supply and international export. And we won’t require to spend money on receiving standard and quality certificates from foreign agencies,” said the SMMAB president.
He also said the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) can also take an initiative to issue the IEC-accredited certificates by establishing its own laboratory facilities.
According to Power Division, the government has set a target of generating 10 percent electricity from renewable energy by 2020 which means at least 2000 MW of power should come from renewable sources.
But so far only 600 MW electricity is coming from renewable sources, mostly from solar home system, the biggest programme with 6.4 million panels.
In such a situation, the SMMAB leaders said both the government and private sector should work together to achieve the goals.
Amid the fast-changing scenario in Bangladesh economy due to COVID-19 crisis, the government is going to change the main macroeconomic structure of the 8th Five Year Plan to protect people.
The Planning Commission is conducting a study for assessing the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and its findings will be reflected on the 8th Five Year Plan, according to a government document.
"The study will also assess the impacts of (COVID-19) pandemic on the poverty reduction programmes and GDP growth activities," the document says.
The work to formulate the 8th Five Year Plan has started as the timeframe of the 7th Five Year Plan expired on June 30 this year.
Bangladesh has already attained the status of lower middle-income country and established the base to preliminarily graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) list to that position.
The document sates that the 8th Five Year Plan will be helpful for the country to graduate from the LDC list by 2024 and implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the 8th Five Year Plan, emphasis will be given on two major issues, expediting prosperity and inclusive growth in addition to giving attention to disseminating the results of growth to everyone equally.
Upholding the 'No one will be left behind' slogan, the 8th Five Year Plan will take target-oriented programmes for the ‘left behind people and areas’ in terms of various economic and social indexes.
According to the document, the 8th Five Year Plan in its formulation process will follow the Perspective Plan 2021-2041 and the election manifesto 2018 of the government.
Sources at the Planning Commission said Bangladesh has targeted 8.37 percent economic growth on average for the 8th Five Year Plan.
The government also sought funds from development partners so that the existing growth is sustained in the plan. It will form committees to regularly monitor the progress of the next plan.
The government will focus on three issues -- job creation and GDP growth, ensuring equal opportunities for, all and tackling the adverse effects of COVID-19 and climate change, a Planning Commission official said.
The First Five Year Plan was launched in July 1973 and it was followed by a Two-Year Plan (1978-80) in the wake of global economic uncertainties. In 1980, the Five-Year Plan framework was reinstated.
There was a shift from the five-year plan to a process of shorter-term Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) from 2002-2003 to 2009-2010. The present government has switched back to the five-year plan returning to power in 2009.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has taken various steps to combat its fallout. It has taken a comprehensive plan to overcome the possible negative impacts of pandemic on economy and people.
Under this plan, the government has taken measures that were necessary in the immediate term and it is implementing some in medium term. It also has taken a slew of long-term initiatives, aiming to achieve full economic recovery.
The comprehensive plan is based on four main strategies --discouraging luxury expenditures and prioritising government spending that creates job, creating loan facilities through commercial banks at subsidised interest rate for the affected industries and businesses, expanding the coverage of the government’s social safety net programmes.
In light of the comprehensive plan and strategies, the government has declared a number of stimulus packages to support the emergency healthcare services to protect jobs and achieve smooth economic recovery.
The economic recovery packages declared so far has totalled Tk 1,03,117 crore.