The outbreak of COVID-19 has turned Mumbai’s largest abattoir at Deonar economically non-viable for traders and dealers who have now turned to the black market. The strict measures, in place to contain the spread of Covid-19, has led to illegal trade of mutton with no checks on hygiene.
How has COVID-19 impacted the mutton supply in Mumbai?
The restrictions imposed on the functioning of the Deonar abattoir, the largest in the country with a capacity to slaughter about 6,000 goats and sheep per day, have not gone down with the goat-sheep dealers and traders. To mark their protest, these traders did not resume the sale of their livestock, primarily goats and sheep, at the Deonar mandi when it reopened on July 3. Instead, As a fallout of which the dealers began purchasing goats and sheep from the black market that have mushroomed across the city and are slaughtering animals at various illegal godowns.
The entire business, which was earlier strictly regulated by the BMC at Deonar, has now moved to the black market.
What were the changes when Deonar abattoir resumed operations?
The mandi was earlier held twice a week and attended by dealers not only from Mumbai but also from Maharashtra and neighbouring states who would buy livestock that the traders procured from across the country. According to traders, about 25,000 goats and sheep were sold per day then. But after operations resumed at Deonar, the mandi was opened for seven days of the week allowing movement of 40 trucks per day, but the sales of animals was only restricted to local dealers from Mumbai.
More importantly, the traders were not allowed to move the unsold animals out of the mandi. The abattoir is supposed to function only between 11 am to 7 pm now, unlike being open for 24 hours. Each of the traders was also asked to get their vehicles registered beforehand.
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Why are dealers and traders unwilling to return to Deonar abattoir?
The restriction on traders to sell their livestock only to local dealers and not allowing unsold animals to leave have been met with stiff resistance by the trader’s association. Aslam Qureshi, president, All India Sheep and Goats Breeders & Dealers Association, questioned the government’s decision to not allow the unsold animals to leave. “How can we not be allowed to take our animals back if they are not sold. Who will take their responsibility if they die?” asked Qureshi.
He also pointed out that if the idea was to ensure there is no overcrowding, the government should have allowed sale for local dealers on some days, and for outside dealers on other days. “At least 80 per cent of the sale was to dealers from across Maharashtra and other states,” added Qureshi.
For dealers, it was the changed timing of the abattoir that made it difficult for them to follow. Shanawaz Thanawala, president of Bombay Mutton Dealers Association, said the the new rules allow the abattoir to open at 11 am while the mutton shop owners are done with their business by 2 pm. “Allowing slaughtering from 11 am to 7 pm does not make sense. It should instead be allowed from midnight until 5 am. This would leave enough room for them to reach the market in time,” said Shanawaz.
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How does it affect the hygiene of mutton being supplied?
When the goats and sheep were slaughtered in the abattoir, the traders were asked to show a fitness certificate of the animal. Apart from this, all the animals also underwent an anti-mortem and a post-mortem ensuring that they are free of any illness. With the entire trade now is being done illegally, there is no way to ensure these hygiene practices. Further, according to Thanawala, animals are slaughtered in a hygienic manner at the slaughterhouse at Deonar, which is difficult to follow by dealers at their own level.
What do the authorities feel can be done about it?
The general manager at Deonar abattoir, Dr Yogesh Shete, maintained that the abattoir is functioning under a pandemic and there are bound to be restrictions. “Such measures are being adopted around the country and are not unique to Mumbai,” said Shete, adding there adequate time needs to be given for the staff to sanitise the place on a regular basis. About restrictions on traders, Shete maintained that they have been restrained from leaving the mandi to ensure that they do not move with the unsold livestock to other dealers that would make contact-tracing difficult if anyone turns out to be COVID-19 positive.
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