Butcher's shops in the valley take a break as supply and sales fallGoat and buffalo imports from India have dropped, and there are few domestic suppliers, traders said.
Prem Bahadur Shrestha pulled down the shutters of his butcher's shop on Monday after his goat supply came to a stop.
Shrestha said his Prem Fresh Meat at Sinamangal had to close also because sales had plunged with hordes of people leaving the valley for their hometowns due to the coronavirus scare.
Goat and buffalo imports from India have declined, and there are few domestic suppliers, said Shrestha. He has no idea when he will be reopening his shop.
Dheeraj Kunwar, who runs a butcher's shop in Kirtipur, also called it a day following a sharp drop in the number of customers. Sales were down due to confusion whether it was all right to consume meat in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Kunwar said his wholesaler left the valley, and he has not been able to get a regular supply of fresh meat, so he decided to shut down for 15 days.
Like Shrestha and Kunwar, many butcher's shops have been shutting down their businesses. With people more concerned about having adequate stocks of essential food items and cooking gas, buying meat is low in their priority list.
Livestock traders said meat sales were down 35 percent across the country, with the price of chicken meat seeing a steep decline of Rs70-80 per kg.
Anil Khadgi, former vice-chairman of the Nepal Fish and Meat Sellers Association, said meat consumption started falling about a week ago.
People fear to consume meat as they have heard that this can be unhealthy in a situation like now, he said. "Meat sales have dropped by a third over the week with people busy buying daily consumable goods and cooking gas."
Housewife Amrita Baniya from Kalanki said she didn't feel like buying meat after seeing the butchers in her neighbourhood handling the product with their bare hands. She said she had not bought meat for the past 15 days because of the poor hygiene displayed by the local meat shops.
Khadgi said that with the border closed, imports of live goat and buffalo had also declined, leading to an increase in the price of mutton by Rs20-30 per kg.
But Shrestha said that he was selling mutton for Rs1,200-1,300 per kg.
Junga Bahadur BC, president of the Poultry Market Management Association, said that chicken sales had dropped by half with hotels, restaurants and offices closing down in greater numbers.
BC said that the price of chicken had decreased by Rs100 per kg. As sales and prices have plunged due to life coming to a near standstill, poultry farmers are becoming concerned about keeping new chicks, and this could result in a drop in production in the future, he said.
Sabin Shrestha, owner of Upakar Chicken Cold Store at Chyasal, said he was selling chicken at Rs230-240 per kg, down Rs70-80 per kg from a few weeks ago.
Very few people are buying poultry due to talk that it is not healthy during times of an epidemic. The consumption of eggs has declined in the same manner, said livestock traders.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.