The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic globally has brought in many changes in routine life with a growing dependency on virtual platforms when physical distancing matters in a big way to limit transmission of the virus.

Nobody did imagine that the biggest religious event like annual hajj will become too limited to a few people inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia restricting devotees from around the world. But that's the reality today as physical distancing remains crucial amid coronavirus pandemic.

And now we are getting closer to the second biggest religious event for the Muslims - Eid-ul-Azha - where cattle markets have become an integral part of it.

The government has already come up with some ideas to avoid risk in the cattle markets through proper management while the income level of most of the people has come down due to the current situation.

Amid the growing number of infected people and deaths, a large portion of cattle selling and purchasing will go online this year, say the officials.

In Bangladesh for the past few years, online cattle trade is gaining momentum and this year it is likely to surpass all previous volumes.

Due to the safety regulations for preventing the spread of COVID-19, the digital platforms are already gearing up and have the possibility to outsell the offline haats.

Currently, there are more than 100 online vendors; commercial enterprises and individuals included, who are ready to sell sacrificial animals.

Some are already bookings through various groups and pages on Facebook.

A government-backed digital platform, 'Food for Nation' started registration of sacrificial animal sellers Tuesday.

This initiative of Digital Hat was taken by Innovation Design and Entrepreneurship Academy (iDEA) under its "Startup Bangladesh" banner with support from the ICT Division.

Elsewhere, local-based Facebook groups have also started operating. Individual farm owners are also optimistic about a better response in the online market.

Iftekhar Ahmed, owner of Hamdan Agro project told UNB that due to the rising risk of coronavirus, even those in remote areas will consider the online markets for buying sacrificial animals this year.

"Selling cattle online will help the individual farmers greatly as the expenses for middlemen will dwindle," he said, adding that those who were skeptical before about the online trade will have to opt for it anyway.

He noted that there will always be a risk of getting infected by COVID-19 if someone plans to visit any haat in this period.

"The cattle farmers may see the demand for livestock go higher than supply this year," he added.

Iftekhar told UNB that his social media page for selling cattle is getting a good response especially from those who are to celebrate in Dhaka. "I'll start accepting bookings seven to 10 days prior to the Eid day and then deliver the cattle all at once to minimise the risk."

While speaking on the boom of online animal trade, the E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (E-CAB) General Secretary Abdul Wahed Tamal told UNB that the sale of sacrificial animals online is expected to increase.

However, he also noted that the approximate sales number cannot be predicted so early.

"We may determine an approximate figure after observing the transactions taking place in the next two weeks," he told UNB.

"We are certain that over the coming years, the sale of sacrificial animals online will definitely increase," he told UNB. In 2018, Tamal informed UNB about the estimated 30 percent of the total sacrificial animal sales happening online. Two years later given a different global situation that number may go over 50 percent.

While Tamal highlighted the online benefits such as no hassle with an unhygienic environment or saving times of both buyer and seller, he also warned that the public should be cautious before making transactions with sketchy online parties.

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