ll Hindus living across the world are preparing to mark the great festival of Dashain with great fanfare, as the cases of COVID-19 have come down tremendously this year. During the festival period, relatives, family members, and friends living far and apart for years gather at a place (basically at their hometowns) to share, rejoice in their happiness receiving and offering auspicious Bada Dashain Tika and blessings from elders.
Before the main day of the Dashain festival, known as Bijaya Dashami that falls on the 10th day, people visit several Navadurga temples for nine days as they carry high importance for every Hindu. Hindu devotees sacrifice goats, buffaloes, pigs, pigeons and roosters, ducks as offerings to the deities.
In the meantime, people consume the meat of the sacrificed animals during this festival. Most households adhere to the age-old tradition of sacrificing goats, chickens, ducks and buffaloes in their homes based on their personal and cultural beliefs.
The government has claimed that Nepal's domestic market is almost able to meet the demand for livestock at present. The country was compelled to rely on imports from Tibet and India till the last few years. The government recently declared that the country has become self-reliant in meat and livestock-related items as a nominal number of goats and buffaloes are being imported from India and mountain goats from Tibet to date.
Enough Goats In Market The meat of about 5.4 million goats is consumed every year. Out of them, almost 50 per cent get consumed during the Dashain and Tihar festivals. The total population of goats in Nepal is estimated at 14 million, according to the latest Livestock Statistics of Nepal published by the Department of Livestock Services under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. About 36 per cent of the total population is released for meat annually.
Annual meat consumption is around 553,000 tonnes in the country, which is more than the minimum requirement as per the standards of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. Per capita, meat consumption has reached 18 kg per year while a person needs 14 kg of meat a year.
Tens of thousands of goats, buffaloes, pigeons and ducks are sacrificed across the country during the Dashain festival. Around 52,000 goats, including mountain goats (Chyangras), 4,000 buffaloes and a large number of chickens and ducks will be sacrificed for meat only in the Kathmandu Valley during Dashain, said Dr Chandra Dhakal, senior livestock officer at the Department of Livestock Services.
Likewise, around 10,000 ducks and 700 pigs and 70,000 tonnes of fish are consumed in the Kathmandu Valley alone. The consumption of goats stood at around 1,200 daily in the Valley during the normal period. Around 60,000 goats are expected to enter the Valley from all seven provinces for the festival. The average annual meat consumption has increased by 2 to 5 per cent in the country.
However, there are no official statistics of the total number of animals and chickens that get sacrificed during Dashain across the country, including the Kathmandu Valley.
Livestock traders say that domestic goat production is adequate to fulfil the requirements of the country, including the Valley for this Dashain festival. "There will be no issues regarding goat supply during this festive season as domestic production is sufficient to cater to the demand," Dhakal said.
In the past, traders used to import goats from India due to difficulty in collecting goats from the villages of the country, but for the last few years, they have been collecting goats from various parts of the country due to tightening in the quarantine provision.
The goats sold in the Valley are brought from Itahari, Kohalpur, Nepalgunj, Dang, Salyan, Morang, Surkhet, Udayapur Kavrepalanchowk, Dhading, Makwanpur and Nuwakot, among other districts. Mountain goats are supplied from the mountain districts of Manang, Mustang and Dolpa.
"Consuming local goats is good for both the farmers and the consumers. However, the price of meat will increase slightly this year. But this will encourage farmers to rear more goats in the days to come, which will contribute to the decline in meat prices," says Dhakal. Over the last year, the traders are supplying local goats and mountain goats to the Kathmandu Valley from various parts of the country after quarantine provisions were tightened on the Nepal-India border, Krishna Prasad Sedai, vice-president of Nepal Goat Entrepreneur's Federation, says.
According to him, around 70,000 local goats will arrive in the Kathmandu Valley for the Dashain festival this year. Traders are now selling goats in the main markets of the Valley like Kalanki and Tukucha. However, there will be a shortage of mountain goats in the market this year as only around 5,000 goats will come in the market from the Mustang, Manang and Dolpa. “The import of mountain goats from Tibet has stopped for the last year due to COVID-19 pandemic which is attributed to increasing its price in the market as well," says Sedai.
Import Drops Significantly The import of goats has decreased significantly over the last three years owing to an improvement in the supply along with local production and quarantine-related issues.
Only around 8,200 goats entered Nepal from abroad in the last fiscal year 2020/21 while 503,600 goats were imported in 2017/18. Similarly, 26,700 goats have imported in the fiscal year 2018/19 and 9,900 goats in the fiscal year 2019/20. The import of mountain goats from Tibet has also stopped the last year after tightening the northern border due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the import of goats from India has slightly increased from the beginning of the current fiscal year. About 10,978 goats were imported in Shrawan and 7,809 goats in Bhadra of the current fiscal year.
Price Goes Up Deepak Thapa, president of the Nepal Livestock Traders Association, said the goat supply was smooth in the Kathmandu Valley. The traders are supplying more than 5,000 goats in the Valley daily since the day of Ghatasthapana, he informs.
He claimed that a large number of Indian goats were being supplied to the Valley illegally in the name of fulfilling the meat demand. The price of live goats has increased by up to Rs. 100 per kg this festival compared to last year, he said. Local live goats have cost Rs. 660 to Rs. 680 per kg this year while it was Rs. 600-620 per kilogram last year. The price of goat meat stands at Rs. 1,200 to Rs. 1,300 per kilogram at present, he says, adding that the price of meat might increase to Rs. 1,500 per kilogram.
Entrepreneurs have increased the prices saying that the production is low and demand is high in Mustang. According to him, the live-mountain goat was sold at Rs. 700 to Rs. 800 per kg last year and meat at Rs. 2,000 per kg. The price of a live mountain goat has reached Rs. 1,300 to Rs. 1,400 per kg this year and readymade meat will reach above Rs. 3,500 per kg. Around 4,500 mountain goats are expected to be sold this year while around 7,000 were sold last year in Kathmandu.
Meanwhile, the government's Food Management and Trading Company (FMTC) has started selling a live goat at Rs. 640 per kilograms with discounted at Rs.10 per kg. This year's price is Rs. 100 more than last year. It provides a discount of Rs. 10 per kilogram to provide relief to consumers and control artificial price hikes by the traders.
Due to an excessive spike in price, the company has made it plain that the office will not be able to offer mountain goats this time. The FMTC has planned to sell 2,000 goats during the Dashain festival this year.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) in collaboration with the concerned government authorities has started inspecting the goats being sold in different parts of the city to ensure the supply of quality meat during Dashain. To separate the healthy livestock from the sick ones, the team has been marking the animals with green paint for healthy and red paint for sick ones.