Contrary to the belief that beef costs high in Benue at the approach of Yuletide, butchers and meat sellers blame the situation on the removal of meat “subsidy’’ by government.
They say the law banning open grazing, which they termed “removal of meat subsidy’’ is at the root of the high costs.
Meat sellers who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Makurdi said prices of cow meat went up because Gov. Samuel Ortom signed the anti-open grazing Bill into law.
Mr Inusa Bala said that by signing the Bill, Gov. Ortom sent cows and herders away from Benue.
He lamented that livestock guards in Benue always searched for herders into deep forests to impound their cows, some of which die in custody.
The herders, he said, needed to pay heavy fines to re-acquire the surviving ones.
“For example, if you have 100 cows and they are arrested, maybe about five will die in custody and you will still have to sell about 10 cows to be able to settle the fine.
“The anti-open grazing law of Benue has caused a lot of challenges for us meat sellers as it has made it difficult for us to buy cows because of the absence of herders.
“Before now, a herder would call you on phone to buy his cows and it was at cheap rates. That is no longer the case.
“We meat sellers now travel to as far as Kano, Katsina, Plateau and Nasarawa to buy cows.
“Sometimes, the cow dealers will refuse to sell to us because we are from Benue and after much pleadings they’d sell to us exorbitantly,’’ Bala complained.
Another meat seller, Mr Mohammed Abubakar told NAN that travelling to other states to take cows to Benue had been very challenging because of the heavy “taxes’’ to be paid at police checkpoints before reaching Benue.
“They purposely increased police checkpoints on market days and they collect N1,000 per trailer load of cows.
“If we manage to reach Makurdi, we still pay other taxes to Lands and Survey Department; to veterinary doctors; to environmentalists and to our union.
“The money we spend to bring cows to Benue is too much, but if herders were not sent out of Benue as a result of the law, prices of cow meat would not have been this high,’’ he said.
Mr Martin Nwachukwu who also sells meat said big cows which used to be sold for N250,000 now costs N700,000, while the small ones which used to go for less than N100,000 now costs N150,000.
He explained further that a kilogram of cow meat which used to be N1400 now costs N2,500.
Nwachukwu appealed to Benue government to reconsider the anti-open grazing law and find a way to accommodate cattle breeders to bring prices down. (NAN)