KOLKATA: The price of mutton — the prime ingredient of a leisurely Bengali Sunday lunch — has touched the Rs 700-mark in Kolkata for the first time ever, owing to a pan-India demand-supply crisis and rumours about novel coronavirus in Bengal’s poultry.
At most markets in the city, the price of mutton shot up by Rs 50 to Rs 80 per kilo in the last few days. Traders were unable to say when the rates will return to normal, though most of them felt they saw no scope of improvement till Holi.
Most of the goats butchered in Kolkata are from Uttar Pradesh and other parts of north India. “Things started going wrong from December itself, when the severe winter pushed up the demand for mutton, particularly in northern India,” said a trader. “Goats from Kolhapur in Maharashtra were also in high demand from the southern states. Untimely floods had already played havoc with goats in the Kolhapur region, and the situation got so bad at one point that traders in Maharashtra appealed to the authorities to curb the movement to the southern states. This, naturally, had an impact on stocks from UP.”
This fall in supply from Uttar Pradesh to Kolkata coincided with the wedding season of January-February, when demand traditionally peaks every year. Added to this were anti-CAA protests and ensuing violence in UP and other states, restricting the movement of trucks carrying goats to the east.
According to Junaid, a trader, a full-sized goat that used to cost about Rs 15,000 till a couple of months ago now costs Rs 20,000 or more. “Demand has gone up after the virus scare, and some traders have taken advantage and raised rates of mutton at the retail level,” he said. “But it is also true that trade has suffered and there is hardly any profit. Demand will anyway fall during summer. There is a lot of confusion all across.”
Some traders, such as Dilip Singha of Maniktala Market, say the price of mutton may go up further in the next few days and even hit the four-figure mark during Holi. The demand for chicken, on the other hand, has fallen drastically , owing to the rumours. At many places, rates of dressed chicken has come down to Rs 120- Rs 140 per kilo from Rs 180, but there are few takers. Ershad, a mutton trader from Gariahat Market, said the price of live goats went up from Friday. “The demand has also gone up as people are avoiding chicken. On some days, we are unable to sell, even to regular customers,” he said. Lake Market trader Md Hidayatullah said many mutton sellers couldn’t open shop on Sunday due to a lack of supply.
The rumour that novel coronavirus is found in poultry refuses to die away, even though doctors have rubbished it. Heart Care Foundation president K K Aggarwal said: “It is simply a rumour, without any scientific basis.”
Dum Dum resident Ranadeep Mukherjee, however, said chicken has gone off the menu because of the rumour. “Mutton is a must at my home each Sunday. When I went to the market, I found out that its price had shot up to Rs 690. Even then, the queue at the shop was longer than ever. I had no option but to pay more. After all, chicken is a no-no after the Covid-19 scare,” he said.