As you queue up every Sunday in front of the local mutton shop, have you ever consider where he gets the goat from? Or from where your favourite Biryani outlet sources its meat? Even those who oft en take that scarcely-lit, near empty Canal East Road between Rajabazar and Maniktala Main Road, negotiating through the herds of goats tethered together as a shortcut to Ultadanga are hardly aware of Chhagalpatti, the largest market for goats in the city.
Scattered over a large stretch, the goat market or Chhagalpatti is the biggest in West Bengal and known for its quality goats. Th e market supplies goats to shops selling mutton and all eateries across the city. “Apart from the goat market here, there is another one in the city located under the Kidderpore Bridge. The Kidderpore market is much smaller both in size and scale and hardly as busy as ours because this is the oldest and the biggest market in the state”, says Muhammad Armaan, a prominent araatdaar (stockist) of the market. “We source quality goats from all over the country and hence this market supplies the best goats to other markets” added Armaan. The market supplies goats to retailers as well as to hotel and restaurant suppliers. Trucks are the major mode of transportation of goats from other states to the market. A truck can carry 300-310 goats at most. A number of trucks arrive daily; the number varies between 7-10 and may go up to 60-70 in peak seasons.
The current lot of traders in the business does not have any clue regarding the history of the market, though they assume that the bazaar is at least 250-year old. According to Muhammad Rabbani, “The market was probably started by our ancestors. It is the demand for quality mutton that has sustained the market till date. We would be proud if we can continue the market in future too.”
The Chhagalpatti is located near Narkeldanga khalpool. Take the third left from Rajabazar while proceeding eastwards towards Phulbagan; just across the bridge on the Beleghata Canal, turn into Canal East Road which leads towards Ultadanga. Continue on the lane where you would find herds of goats tied under numerous sheds. Don’t be baffled if you do not catch sight of a single buyer or seller. This improvised market otherwise remains empty except when sales are at a peak during night between 9 and 11 pm. Needless to say, the overbearing stench would make it difficult for you to walk through the bazaar.
On either side of the road are shanties and sheds, stretching all along the canal. There are a total of 17 sheds and about 100 goats are tied under each shed. You would also notice large, well-fed goats sitting on cots, reared by the sellers so that they can be sold later for a much higher amount. The market is open on all the days except Wednesdays, while Thursdays to Saturdays are the peak days. The market is generally deserted during the day while nights are dark and crowded. The lane is lit with the street lights; hence some sheds lie in absolute darkness while some are better-lit.
There is an inherent risk factor for buyers because one cannot estimate exactly the actual weight of the animal. Both parties bargain on the basis of estimated weight. But, according to veterans in the business, the actual weight is usually more than the estimated weight and for the retail mutton shop owner, his profit lies in the difference in weight. For instance, a goat estimated to be 10 kilo would yield a minimum of 11–12 kilo after being slaughtered and weighed.
A khasi which weighs 10 kilo is usually sold between `4300 and `4600. At present, the retail price at local meat shops is `460 per kg, and we were told that the profit depends on that excess 1 or 2 kg. Over all, profitability varies between `20 and 30 per kilo for a retailer and varies between `200 and `300 per goat. Every part of a goat is sold apart from the meat, such as hide, head and so on; these are sold at `100-200 which adds to the profit.
Off -take by retailers from this market generally depends on their daily requirements. For example a retailer who runs a local meat shop may buy 5-6 goats every day. Whereas a supplier may buy 200-300 goats daily depending on the requirement of the restaurants or hotels he supplies.
The buyers generally stand at fixed positions with the sellers moving around and displaying their goats.
Business is best during festivals and marriage seasons.
“We generally have khasi as they taste much better compared to patha”, said a seller.
“Quality is the main factor; and hence the prices are fixed according to quality.” Claimed Md Sayeed Khan, a seller in the market. Bakri are generally smaller in size and similar to that of a patha but low in quality and cost less.
The suppliers feed the tethered goats with leaves and grass and they are also given a bath to keep them clean and healthy. “People who buy patha for ‘boli’ (sacrifi ce) are generally charged `100 or `200 more as they do not buy in bulk”, claimed Md Mehfooz Alam Ansari.
The bazaar starts at dawn but the main market takes off after dusk and is at its peak between 9 pm and 11 pm. All meat shop owners visit during this period to buy their stock.
The striking feature during bargaining is that no transactions are done verbally – the prospective buyer and seller communicate through signals with fingers in clasped hands.
The best qualities come from Rajasthan’s Ajmer and UP’s Jashvant Nagar. Other varieties are brought from villages of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The goats are led away on foot at night to the butcheries to be slaughtered as required.
The wholesellers send the payments to their suppliers to different parts of the country mainly through couriers.
The prices in the market vary with time. The business here booms during the festive seasons. “Goats are brought to the market according to demand. The sale is quite high during festivals and often a buyer buys in bulk”, added Rabbani.
There are approximately 300 sellers but the market is mainly dominated by 5 or 6 sellers called “araatdaar”. Restaurants, retailers and caterers primarily buy in bulk. Meat shop owners from all around the city come to this market and haggle with the sellers.
According to Sayeed Khan: “Due to stiff competition, it is not that a particular seller is able to sell as much as he would like to. If lucky, each seller sells about 10-15 goats daily. It is his rapport with the buyers that helps him to sustain profit throughout the year.”
So next time you get a chance to savour those chunky pieces of mutton cooked either traditionally as pathar jhol or biryani, you should be certain that the meat has been sourced from Chhagalpatti.
Types of goats
The goat market deals with 4 major types of goats which include:
Location: Canal East Road near
Open: All days except
Timing: 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm
Car park: On Canal East Road