Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Goat traders left to count losses

JAKARTA (JP): Poor sales made Thursday's Idul Adha (the Islamic Day of Sacrifice) a black day for many of the capital's goat traders.

Although some Muslims, particularly members of the Nahdlatul Ulama organization, are waiting for Friday to celebrate the Day of Sacrifice, many of the seasonal traders believed their sales would remain sluggish.

As of Thursday evening, one could still see traders with their goats at their temporary homes, mostly on vacant fields or sidewalks, waiting for buyers.

Some of the goat traders decided early in the day to leave the capital along with their animals and return to their hometowns. While others offered their animals to regular goat traders at local markets for cheap.

Many of the traders said on Thursday they had no idea why this year sales had been so poor.

Trader Engkot, who tethered his goats on the sidewalk of Jl. Salemba Raya in Central Jakarta, could not hide his disappointment when he said he had only sold 20 of his 90 goats this year.

"I have suffered so much this year. I invested Rp 40 million for the business and, so far, I have only seen a return of Rp 12.5 million," said the 40-year-old man wearing a batik, who was still waiting for customers.

He said he had borrowed Rp 30 million of capital from a private foundation with a monthly interest rate of 2 percent, which is about double the average bank rate.

"I still have no idea how I can pay off the loan and its interest," said Engkot, who runs a small staple food shop here.

Judging by past experiences, he believed that waiting for customers after Thursday's official Day of Sacrifice would be fruitless, even though Muslims who wish to sacrifice an animal still have three days in which to do so.

Engkot said that later he might sell his remaining goats to a butcher in Tanah Abang market in Central Jakarta.

"It's okay, although there will be no profit," he said.

Poor sales were also reported by Didi Rusidi, who still had 20 goats unsold, at Pramuka market in East Jakarta.

He, however, hoped that some of the animals would be sold by Friday.

"I just hope so," said Didi, who is facing losses of Rp 15 million.

He said many goat sellers were suffering the same fate as him this year due to the increased numbers of seasonal goat traders compared to before.

He also said that the demand for sacrificial goats was slightly down this year, probably due to the effects of the monetary crisis.

"Last year, there were only three traders here but now the competition is getting tougher with the presence of five new sellers," he said.

Didi said if the goats remained unsold, he planned to rear them in his hometown of Bogor, about 40 kilometers south of here.

Ismail, a goat trader in Paseban, Central Jakarta, agreed that the competition was much stiffer this year, estimating the number of goat sellers across the capital this year might be almost double from last year.

"In this area alone, there are four new sellers this year, compared to only two last year," he said.

He said the new traders might be people who had recently lost their jobs but had enough money to invest, and had learned from last year's experience that Idul Adha goat trading was very profitable.

Ismail said he had never imagined he would be facing such a bad season, fearing he might suffer losses of around Rp 18 million. Last year, all of his goats were sold by Idul Adha eve.

"This time, besides facing possible losses of some Rp 18 million, I still have to pay the five people who I hired to watch over the goats at Rp 10,000 per day each. I also have to spend an extra Rp 50,000 to pay a local community leader for the so-called security fee," he said.

Unlike his fellow traders, Nano Suyatno, who claimed himself to be a well-informed and experienced trader, had all his goats, including the large ones, sold by Wednesday evening.

"I only sold goats based on orders, such as from mosques and companies. That's why all of my goats are sold out," said Nano, who made total profits of Rp 25 million after working for less than two weeks.

He identified several reasons behind the dramatic drop in goat sales this season.

One of them was due to the fact that more Muslims were performing the haj pilgrimage this year because of the significant reduction in the official cost of the journey.

Last year, the fare for the trip was much more expensive, meaning that less people went to Mecca and instead spent their money on sacrificial goats here.

"Now many people have opted to perform their haj. That's why goat sales are decreasing," he said. (ind)