Md Umar despised everyone who called chicken a form of meat. When a food stall came up close to his shop last Durga Puja, he was peeved at the attempt to sell chicken biryani. “Call that murg pulao,” he had told the stall owner. “Without gosht, you can’t have biryani,” he could be heard grumbling.
Little did the Swinhoe Street butcher know that six months later, he would have to swallow his pride and sell ‘infernal’ poultry for a living after being forced to keep the shop shut for nearly three weeks due to supply shortage.
Meat shops in Kolkata sourced livestock from haats at Kanpur and Etawah in Uttar Pradesh and Patna and Saharsa in Bihar. But all those haats have remained shut during the lockdown. Around 20 trucks, each packed with 300-400 goats would arrive in Narkeldanga daily before lockdown. No truck has arrived for nearly a month-and-a-half now.
With stock trickling into haats in Narkeldanga and Budge Budge from livestock farms in Murshidabad and Malda, some shops, including Md Umar’s, have reopened. But with mutton price scaling Rs 750-800 per kg owing to supply shortage and few customers in the offing, Umar has taken to selling chicken.
“I had never thought the situation would come to such a pass that I would sell poultry. But I have done so to keep myself afloat and pay my staff Md Nasir,” said Umar of Hafiz Meat Shop, who now sells around 5kg of mutton and 15-20kg of chicken a day. Before lockdown, he would sell 15-20kg of mutton daily and three times the amount on weekends.
“Mutton price has become so unaffordable that we are offering them dressed chicken and asking them to wait till the lockdown is over. Unless we get supply from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the mutton price is unlikely to dip,” said Sk Hamid of Akbar Ali & Sons, a mutton shop at Remount Road.
Moinuddin of Ekbal Meat Shop complained the local livestock did not match the quality of goat reared in Bihar and UP. “We don’t have the meat that some connoisseurs demand. For the rest, mutton is now beyond reach. So we are selling chicken,” he said.
Unlike mutton, price of dressed chicken which has been fluctuating in the run-up to the lockdown has stabilised with the easing of movement of trucks ferrying poultry from farms in Hooghly, North 24 Parganas and elsewhere and is now witnessing a steady demand, particularly after the closure of wholesale fish markets in Howrah and Patipukur.
Source: Times of India