THE Eid ul Azha economy has surged despite pressure on family budgets because of inflation and dwindling multiple income options.
According to a conservative guesstimate, the current quantum of seasonal activity is seen at Rs450 billion, up from Rs360 billion last year when 4.6 million large animals (cow, bull and camel) and 6.9 million small animals (goat and lamb) were sacrificed in the three-day long holy festival across the country.
The rise in the number of animals sacrificed this year and their higher value are reckoned to have added Rs90 billion to the consolidated estimates of the last year.
A portion of this boost is understood to have been financed by overseas Pakistanis, who prefer to fulfill the holy obligation of sacrificing cattle in their home town amidst their clan or community.
The figure of Rs450 billion quoted at the start of the article was based on a series of calculations inferring from indications such as figures of Eid-related cash withdrawals from banks, the liquidity injections by the State Bank to ease banks’ liquidity position, the results of random surveys of buyers and sellers by the newspaper and media reports from different sources and cities of the country.
In material terms, the key gainers of the surge are people with investment in cattle business. The benefits, however, are not limited to this sector alone.
Beside the pick- up in shopping for formal wear, shoes and accessories, families in cities today set aside funds to hire new service providers to help them manage qurbani (sacrifice).
Eying business potential, a score of enterprising people, mostly youth, have entered the market offering specialised services in an institutional setting.
A close monitoring of market trends during the festival point to a growing sophistication in the Eid market over time. Beside petty stalls operators selling feed and other products of immediate requirements, a whole new class of seasonal service operators, using modern marketing tools, have emerged to capitalise on the business opportunities.
The aggressive marketing campaigns by philanthropic organisations, companies and groups, leveraging multiple channels are said to be gradually making inroads in the market.
“People have not responded warmly to the calls for donations for amounts they set aside foranimals because they like the rituals and fear social backlash raising questions about their belief”, a lady who actively campaigned to divert Eid budget to donations for flood affectees told Dawn privately.
The on-line business, still limited, is said to be picking up at a slow pace because of the preference of cattle buyers to physically inspect the animal before sealing the deal.
“The net is used for information gathering but in absence of standardisation of categoriesof sacrificial animals and very few trust worthy companies, the online trade in this segment has yet to gain currency”, Adil, a media consultant who initiated Eid ul Azha advisory service for clients and friends free of charge told Dawn.
The entry of big investors in a lucrative market, that has little regulatory oversight, however, has loaded the dice in favour of suppliers.
The bargaining power of suppliers is expressed in persistently rising average price of animals at bakra piri (make-shift cattle markets). There is wide variation in prices at different locations. According to media reports, the price of almost all categories of sacrificial animals register an annual increase of 15 to 20 per cent..
“The suppliers each year launch a whispering campaign before Eid projecting short supply to build a case for the price hike”, a senior government official in an economic ministry commented from Islamabad.
The background investigations by Dawn revealed that the country has enough stocks to match Eid demand while fulfilling export targets. It may be recalled that the livestock sector was able to ensure sufficient supplies over the past two years despite the losses suffered during flash floods and heavy rains.
The rising cost of feed, rent and caring influence price trends but the argument of short supply does not hold ground in Pakistan where weather, land and vegetation support quick multiplication of livestock.
The size or the evolution of Eid market has not inspired the government or the economic researchers to show an interest in the phenomenon repeated every year.
Dawn made an attempt to get theofficial word to verify the credibility of estimated figures quoted in media. The higher ups at the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in Islamabad politely declined to comment for, they said, they did not have access to any source to check the authenticity of claims about the size of the economy and the trends therein.
A senior official at the Agriculture Census Organisation wishing anonymity confirmed that no consolidated data on the size of sacrificial market exist anywhere in the country.
The gentleman was not convinced and doubted the projections in media about the size and considered them mere figment of imagination. On the question why were estimates not contested, he avoided a response.