Rawhide traders and tannery owners in Bangladesh are scurrying to collect and process animal hides taking into consideration that a possible confrontation between the two leading political parties after the Eid-ul-Azha could hamper transportation of their consignments.
Bangladesh is celebrating the Eid on Wednesday. Eid-ul-Azha, translated as the ‘festival of sacrifice’ is one of the most auspicious festivals in the Islamic calendar. It is the time when almost half of the raw animal hides processed throughout the year, is collected.
“We collected around 5.5 million pieces of hide last year,” said Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) Chairman Md Shahin Ahmed.
“We hope to collect another 6.5 to 7 mln pieces of hide this year,” he told bdnews24.com.
According to him, this year 1.9 mln cows were smuggled into Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s leather goods industry is emerging as a $1 billion industry and most of the leather exported is processed at Hazaribagh in Dhaka. The industry has been accused of having ‘hazardous’ working conditions.
“The animal hide business in Bangladesh mainly centres on the Eid-ul-Azha and we have taken all necessary preparations for this nearly three-month season,” he said.
The tannery businessman said they were aware of a looming political conflict ahead of the national election. “The animal skins can go to waste if they do not reach us in time… Nothing can be done in that case. We are prepared,” said Ahmed.
In Bangladesh, tension is running high as the ruling Awami League and the BNP-led opposition are at loggerheads over the form of the election-time government.
Several platforms of leather traders and manufacturers have fixed the price of every square foot of rawhide at Tk 85 to 90 for cows in Dhaka district and Tk 75 to 80 for outside of Dhaka.
For goat skin, the price is Tk 50 to 55 and for buffalo Tk 40 to 45.
BTA chief Ahmed said they have to hire around 6,000 temporary workers during the Eid.
He said the tannery owners do not buy leather directly but collect them from other merchants.
Rawhide of animals sacrificed in Dhaka reach the capital’s tanneries on the Eid day but skins from around the country take around a month to reach.
Secretary of another platform of tannery owners said the people were more concerned about the meat during the Eid.
“Many neglect the animal hide. If the animals’ skins are not preserved with salt within 6-8 hours, their qualities decline,” said Md Jainul Abedin of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters’ Association.
He believes the general people have an upper hand as the rawhide prices are fixed in advance.
Motaleb Mia, who supplies salt to Hazaribagh tanneries, said around 70-80 percent of the salt is procured during the Eid season.
BTA Chairman Ahmed said they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the government on Oct 13 extending the time limit for transferring tanneries to Savar to 2016.
He hopes transfer of Hazaribagh tanneries will start from next year.
Tanneries in Hazaribagh have been accused of releasing a ‘huge quantities of toxic waste’ into the Buriganga River that flows by Dhaka.
In April, US-based Human Rights Watch accused the tanneries of ‘disrespecting’ both national and international environmental standards. It had advised buyers at an Italy fair to shun Bangladeshi leather goods.
It said none of the Hazaribagh tanneries had their own treatment plants to treat industrial wastewater and there was no common effluent treatment plant either in the area.
In a 2012 report, the HRW said the area’s residents complained of illnesses such as fevers, skin diseases, respiratory problems, and diarrhoea caused by the extreme tannery pollution of air, water, and soil.
It described how wastewater from the tanneries, containing among other substances, animal flesh, sulphuric acid, chromium, and lead, went into Dhaka’s main river.
According to government estimates, around 21,000 cubic meters of untreated tannery effluent is released each day in Hazaribagh.
Pollutant levels in the wastewater frequently surpass Bangladesh’s permitted limits for tannery effluent.
According to estimates, almost 90 percent of the country’s leather and leather goods come from Hazaribagh.
It is a rapidly growing source of export income for Bangladesh. China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United States are its main buyers.
Source: Bd news24