Mon, 10 Feb 2003

Goat, cow trading provides slight hope amid hardship

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

If you're passing through Jakarta's streets and all of a sudden, you smell an unpleasant odor, don't be surprised. The smell comes from goats and cows on sale for the upcoming Islamic day of sacrifice, Idul Adha, which falls on Wednesday.

The smell, however, tell the story of the small hope traders hold onto with this seasonal business, amid the suffocating pressures on their already battered incomes.

"I hope to secure a greater profit this year than last year," Yanto, 45, a resident of Bumiayu Village in Brebes, Central Java, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Yanto said that he had brought 250 goats from Brebes, more than a 20 percent increase from the 200 goats he brought last year. The goats had been purchased with money collected by himself and three neighbors.

Prices of a goat range from Rp 700,000 to Rp 1,650,000 each, while a cow ranges between Rp 5.5 million to Rp 9 million each.

"We just want to make extra money to help us out during the ongoing economic hardship," said Yanto, who oversees the Pejompongan, Central Jakarta, corral, one of four seasonal corrals selling sacrificial animals across the city. He said that his 3-hectare rice paddy could not be expected to generate profit.

Yanto revealed that many farmers in his village faced serious economic hardships due to the falling prices of agricultural goods. Clove, rice, vegetables and fruits are the main agricultural yields in his village.

Farmers of clove trees for instance, Yanto said, had been suffering from declining prices.

"The price of clove has drastically dropped to Rp 24,000 (US$2.7) per kilogram, from a hefty Rp 90,000 per kilogram in 2000 and 2001," said Yanto.

Rice farmers were facing a similar situation. While the prices of fertilizer and pesticide had increased, the price of rice had dropped, leaving farmers with hardly any profit.

Yanto said that the price of rice hovered at Rp 2,100 per kilogram, far lower than the minimum price of Rp 3,100 per kilogram needed to provide a meager profit to farmers.

"We even consider it fortunate if we manage to break even in our gains," said Yanto.

The seasonal business of selling cows and goats during the Idul Adha celebration is a way of survival for farmer-traders like Yanto.

"Hopefully, we can make at least Rp 80,000 net profit from each goat we sell," Yanto said, adding that he had been selling cows and goats for Idul Adha since 1997.

But Yanto still worried that he could fail to make a profit and instead, suffer losses owing to tighter competition.

"Many new players have joined the seasonal business. Those who have larger financial backing will take the risk to sell at cheaper prices, which is a blow to small players," said Yanto.

He recounted his bad experience in 2000 when he had to bring 20 goats back home. Most of the goats fell sick and died soon after their return to the village, due to stress caused by being transported and being displayed at the noisy roadside of the city.

Another trader, Manu, 30, on Jl. KH Mas Mansyur, Central Jakarta, said that besides the increasing number of traders the business was also relatively sluggish this year.

The resident of Kebon Melati in Central Jakarta said that last year, four days prior to the celebration, he had already sold 150 goats and had to order another 75 from Magelang (Central Java).

"Right now, with only two days left, I've only sold 30 goats so far," he said.