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LAHORE: Just a few hours away from Eid-ul-Azha, markets of sacrificial animals witnessed a sudden surge of customers here on Friday and a majority of them were least bothered about the threat of Coronavirus as they paid no heed to precautionary measures advised by the government.

The Lahore District Administration had set up 12 sacrificial animals markets including the ones at Shahpur Kanjran Lakho Dair, old Kahna Ferozepur Road, DHA Phase 9, Sagian, Allama Iqbal Town, Manga Mandi and Raiwind.

At Sagian, a large crowd was seen with most of them having no mask on their faces and none of them practicing social distancing. While talking to Business Recorder, a buyer, Arsal, said that it is difficult to wear masks in this humid weather while it is almost impossible to keep a distance in the crowded place.

"We all have to fulfil our religious obligation, so we are here to buy an animal," he added. Another buyer, Sikander, had come to the marker with his children. "It is hard to overlook children's wish to visit the market and buy an animal. Allah will protect us all from the virus," he added. On the occasion, many buyers were seen leaving the market empty-handed and disappointed as the prices of these animals did not fit to their pockets.

This year, the demand price of small sacrificial animals witnessed a considerable increase. A goat of an average size ranged between Rs 28,000 and Rs 34,000, which last year was available in the range of Rs 22000-26,000.

Prices of a goat/sheep of above-average size jumps to around, on average, Rs 40,000, and if the animal's look is outstanding then add extra Rs 15,000. This class of animals is for the elite class only.

The prices of cows, however, were similar to the last year; the price of an average cow ranges between Rs 90,000 and Rs 100,000. For a well-built buffalo, the sellers are asking between Rs 135,000 and Rs 180,000, depending on its look.

Zafer, a businessman, complained of high prices and said that the goatherds were asking ridiculous price for a goat. "It is all most double from the last year. The impact of the virus on my earning and inflated prices are making it difficult for me to find an animal at a reasonable rate," he added. Another buyer was seen leaving the market empty-handed and his face showed displeasure over the prevailing prices. He said the prices are 30-40 percent higher than the previous year. "I have come with my friends to buy a few goats but the prices did not meet our pockets. Now, we are considering buying a cow and share it among ourselves, as it will be cheaper," he added.

The traders of sacrificial animals had their own story on the price hike and claimed that they were forced to push the prices in the backdrop of an increase in the cost of transportation and animal feed.

Earlier, they were terrified with the prospect of returning to their homes with their animals as the turnout of customers was very low till today. They said owing to the Coronavirus pandemic and humid weather people were staying away from the markets.

A cattle farmer from Sargodha, Anwar, said that trading activity is slow everywhere in the province. "My brother is selling his livestock in Faisalabad and he was also complaining about the low turnout. However, after seeing Thursday's rush, he was optimistic of selling his stocks.

Meanwhile, despite repeated warnings from the district administration against the selling of the animals outside the administration's designated cattle markets, traders were seen selling goats and sheep on the roadside or on empty plots throughout the city. They were not only violating the government's SOPs issued for the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha, but also obstructing the traffic.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020