Livestock plays an important role in the national economy of Bangladesh with a direct contribution of 2.95% percent to the agricultural GDP (Bangladesh Economic Review, 2006) and providing 15 percent of total employment in the economy. The livestock sub-sector that includes poultry offers important employment and livelihood opportunities particularly for the rural poor, including the functionally landless, many of whom regard livestock as a main livelihood option. About 75 percent people rely on livestock to some extent for their livelihood, which clearly indicates that the poverty reduction potential of the livestock sub-sector is high. According to Bangladesh Economic Review, (2006), the growth rate in GDP in 2004-05 for livestock was the highest of any sub-sector at 7.23%, compared to 0.15% for crops, and 3.65% for fisheries sub-sector. These changes have been prompted by a rapid growth in demand for livestock products due to increase in income, rising population, and urban growth.
It is an established fact that high quality animal protein in the form of milk, meat and eggs is extremely important for the proper physical and mental growth of a human being. In Bangladesh, around 8% of total protein for human consumption comes from livestock (BBS, 2000). Hides and skin of cattle, buffaloes, goats and sheep is a valuable export item, ranked third in earnings after RMG and shrimp. Surprisingly, Bangladesh has one of the highest cattle densities: 145 large ruminants/km2 compared with 90 for India, 30 for Ethiopia, and 20 for Brazil. But most of them trace their origin to a poor genetic base. The average weight of local cattle ranges from 125 to 150 kg for cows and from 200 to 250 kg for bulls that falls 25-35% short of the average weight of all-purpose cattle in India (“Agriculture for 21st Century in Bangladesh” by Z. Karim, 1997). Milk yields are extremely low: 200-250 litre during a 10-month lactation period in contrast to 800 litre for Pakistan, 500 litre for India, and 700 litre for all Asia. Despite highest cattle densities in Bangladesh, the current production of milk, meat and eggs are inadequate to meet the current requirement and the deficits are 85.9, 77.4 and 73.1% respectively (DLS, 2000). If 5% GDP growth rate is considered then the current production of these commodities need to be increased 2.5 to 3.0 times by the year 2020 to feed the growing population in the country. This illustrates how urgent is the need to increase the production of milk, meat and eggs. The PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper) stresses the importance of the livestock sub-sector in sustaining the acceleration of poverty reduction in the country. The dynamic potential of this emerging sub-sector thus requires critical policy attention.
In the past, due importance was not given to the development of the livestock sub-sector despite its significant contribution to the national economy. In the Financial Year 2006-07 the livestock sub-sector received only about 1.0 percent of the total budget allocation, or only about 3.5 percent of the agricultural sector budget. Though production of animal protein has maintained an upward trend, daily per capita availability of animal protein presently stands at around 21 gm meat, 43 ml milk and 41 eggs vis-a-vis the recommended intakes of 120 gm meat, 250 ml milk and 104 eggs. Shortage of quality inputs, inadequate services and physical infrastructure, institutional weaknesses in terms of weak regulatory framework and enforcement, limited skilled manpower and resources, and inadequate research and technological advancement are all continuing to act as constraints to livestock development.
The growth opportunities in the livestock sub-sector vary significantly among the species. Qualitative rather than quantitative development of large ruminants (cattle and buffalo), a parallel increase of the productivity and population size of the...