x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Soaring cost of Eid goats stretches budget of Indian Muslim families

During final buying rush before Eid, the merchants in New Delhi were taking full advantage, with prices rapidly increasing.

NEW DELHI // Over the weekend, there were almost as many goats as cars making their way through the evening traffic towards Meena Bazaar, the ancient market street near the historic Red Fort in Old Delhi.

This was where the majority of the animals were being sold for Eid.

Mohammed Shafi, 67, and his son Hassan, 36, went to the bazaar with a budget of 15,000 rupees (Dh1,123) for a pair of sacrificial goats, only to find merchants had raised the price by between 40 and 100 per cent.

"The prices have gone up so much that we are forced to pay what they ask," said Mr Shafi. "There is no room for haggling."

Meena Bazaar had swelled to its capacity on Friday, causing the market to spill out onto the sidewalk along the main motorway. It was here that the cheapest goats were found.

The hawkers announced the prices of their goats, which were adorned with tiaras and garlands made of tinsel or beads.

"One for 14, two for 24," called out Rakesh Babu. At 14,000 rupees, Mr Babu's goats were among the cheapest on the market.

This was the final buying rush before Eid and the merchants were taking full advantage, which presented a problem for Zakiruddin Khan, a milk merchant.

His haggling almost ended in fisticuffs when he tried to stuff 20,000 rupees down the shirt of Mr Babu, who was unwilling to come down from his price of 24,000.

"Take it," insisted Mr Khan. "No," replied the merchant, as he angrily threw the money back at Mr Khan.

"Last year I paid 20,000 for two goats and they were much bigger than these," said Mr Khan.

It is customary for Muslim families in Delhi to purchase a pair of goats, always male.

The meat is divided into thirds - one part for the poor, one for friends and neighbours, the other for the family.

The goats in Delhi's marketplaces come from the nearby states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Although there is no shortage of livestock, the rising cost of transportation and feed has led to the steep price increase this year.

On Friday, fuel surcharges rose by 1.8 to 68.84 rupees (Dh 5.16) per litre. This was the 13th time the federal government had increased fuel prices since June last year.

Mr Babu is from Shajahanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, about 300 kilometres east of Delhi.

He has been bringing his goats to the capital for the Eid market for years.

Last year, he was able to afford 20 kids from the profit he made during Eid. This year, his margin is tight.

It cost him 10,000 rupees to take 40 goats to the market this year. That was twice the amount he spent last year for the same number of goats.

A kid costs about 1,500 to 2,000 rupees, then he must feed it for at least one year, preferably two to fetch a higher price. That costs about 5,000 rupees a year.

Mr Babu was barely breaking even, which explained his indignation at Mr Khan's attempts at forceful haggling.

"I won't be able to meet my quota this year," said Mr Babu. "If one year you slip and you have less stock, it takes a few years before you can climb back again to the numbers you lost."