This year, over Eidul Azha people enjoyed almost a week-long break. They spent their time relaxing at home, meeting relatives, trying different recipes and even travelling out of station. For them, these days off from work were an opportunity to unwind and freshen up.
But, not everyone was relaxing over the Eid holidays — there were also those who worked round the clock, collecting hides for different religious and social work organisations. Many of them were volunteers who had issued receipts to people in advance, to seal the deals.
On Eid days, however, some small time investors also jumped into the business of hide collection — they went from door to door to buy hides at a lower price and then, after treating them with chemicals, they sold them to dealers (aarhtis) in the hide market at a higher price. There are many people who prefer to sell hides to these investors/vendors rather than donate them to organisations, and distribute the proceeds of the sales among the poor and needy.
Every year, different organisations compete against each over the number of hides collected, announcing the tally at the end of their collection drives. Though the sale of these hides brings big money to their coffers, there are reports that some organisations also try to gain political mileage by overstating the numbers.
A clerk (munshi) at a godown in Hide Market, shares with TNS that some people came to him and to several other people in the market to buy hides on the first day of Eid. “They had come on their own loader trucks and did not disclose their identity. Maybe they belonged to different organisations and wanted to add hides to the stock that they already had with them,” he says.
He adds, this makes business sense, for fresh hides carry lower price tag than those processed with salt and chemicals.
Leading hide collectors now rent godowns and treat hides so that they can preserve them for longer periods and demand higher prices from dealers and tanneries — the ultimate industrial consumers of this commodity.
His claims are validated by the fact that leading hide collectors like Shaukat Khanum Hospital, Dawat-e-Islami and Jamaat-e-Islami have stopped visiting representatives of different tanneries to sell their stock. Rather, they invite dealers and representatives of different tanneries to the godowns to participate in the bidding process. The highest bidders get the stock.
Tahir Bashir, head of purchase at Shafi Tanneries says bidding for Shaukat Khanum’s stock will take place on Saturday (a day after the filing date of this write-up). He says there will be many bidders as everyone wants to procure such a huge stock. It will be a game of nerves as sellers with huge stocks will manipulate the price.
Shaukat Khanum, he says, has an edge over the others as it allows the buyers to clear the payments over a longer period of time. The hospital can afford this arrangement as it has regular cash flows and is not heavily dependent on these sale proceeds to run its operations. The buyers agree on buying at higher rates if they have the facility to pay the amount after three months or six months, he says, adding this is one reason why the hospital gets a higher price for its stock.
Muhammand Hanif, a volunteer working for Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), says they do not force anyone to give hides to them. The focus, he says, is simply on the registered members of JI who are also asked to convince their relatives, friends etc. to donate hides to Al Khidmat Foundation, which works under the umbrella of JI.
He claims JI is one of the most organised and non-violent parties that is running many social welfare projects. These credentials help it collect hides in an organised and efficient way, he claims.
The volunteers of Shaukat Khanum Hospital believe it is their image as a reputable social service provider that helps them collect hides in large numbers. Haider, a volunteer working with the hospital, says while collecting hides they simply showcase the noble work of the hospital to convince people to donate hides of their sacrificial animals to the hospital.
Sheikh Muhammad Arshad, President of Lahore Hide Market, Sultanpura tells TNS that absolute figures can be provided only after the auction of stocks held by these organisations. But if one goes by their claims, he says, Shaukat Khanum may emerge as the leading hide collector in Lahore followed by Dawat-e-Islami and Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is also among the prominent hide collectors.
He says Shaukat Khanum claims it has collected 30,000 hides of goats whereas Dawat-e-Islami says it has 12,000 hides of cows, but things will be clear in a day or two.
On collection by banned organisations, Arshad says none of these could be seen active in Punjab. There were some issues with JuD in the start but later on courts cleared it of all the charges levelled against it. Even if one assumes that any of the banned organisations is collecting hides, he says, it would be working in far-flung areas of the province and selling stocks at a throw-away price to some middlemen. They cannot operate openly and deal directly with the main players of the hide market, who are overcautious in this regard, he adds.
Tahir Bashir says the leather industry is the second biggest exporter in the country and prices of hides of different sacrificial animals depend on the export orders the industry issues. Goat leather and cow leather are in high demand as they are used in uppers of shoes and leather garments respectively.
The price of untreated goat hide on this Eid was from Rs425 to Rs500 and that of cow hide was from Rs3,800 to Rs4,000. The hide of a camel which is much bigger in size fetched Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,000 per piece.
He says most of the trading activity carried out on Eid-ul-Azha is cash-based as banks are closed. The size of the hides is slightly bigger than that of animals slaughtered throughout the year and the reason is that sacrificial animals are quite healthy. But, he says, the quality may not be good in many cases as the amateur and first-time butchers cause harm to the hides while removing them.