Agri Business

Wanted: Indian buffaloes!

Rasheeda Bhagat Najaf | Updated on February 21, 2011 Published on February 21, 2011


Well, in the course of your life and work, you come across all kinds of offers, deals and propositions. But this one really left me stunned. For, I've never been asked if I, or well, my family, would like to supply buffaloes to Iraq.

But this is exactly what an Indian businessman, who is doing roaring business with Iraqis for the last couple of years, asked me during a casual conversation in a restaurant in Najaf.

“Iraqis are trying to set up new dairies and want quality milk; they are getting their cows from the West but are very keen to get buffaloes from India, particularly Punjab. If you are interested, I can put you in touch with people who will give you details about the tender,” he says enthusiastically.

‘Only curious'

I tell him that I am interested, not in supplying buffaloes, but knowing the details of the requirement as I am a journalist.

“Oh, they require buffaloes in thousands of numbers and want Indian animals because they give 10-12 litres of milk both in the morning and evening. I was offered the opportunity, but turned it down.”

His line of business is completely different, he says, adding that he was tempted to take on the order but was advised by local Iraqis, with some knowledge in livestock dealing, that this could be dicey.

“The buffaloes will have to travel by ships from India with a veterinarian first examining them for good health and then accompany them in the vessel. But I was told that even if one animal had some infection, there was the danger of the rest catching it on the journey and then the entire consignment would be rejected. So what would I do if this happened,” he asks.

I move on with a polite ‘no, thank you' to bring in the buffaloes, telling him that my skills lay in delivering neither this nor any other “consignment”!

Service staff needed

But as normalcy returns, the entire country is buzzing with activity, and there are business opportunities in the supply of more manageable things than buffaloes.

Basmati rice, for one, is something that is already being procured from India.

Skilled and semi-skilled labour such as plumbers, engineers, carpenters, helpers in hotels, salesmen in stores and drivers, are required in huge numbers.

I meet Gurdeep, from Punjab, who has come to work as a waiter in one of the upmarket restaurants – Dur Nasrawi – in New Karbala.

The kebabs here are to die for; juicy, succulent and soft and the starters, complete with humus, fresh leafy vegetables, delicious fruits, chicken, liver and brain (if you have the stomach for it) are awesome.

The bread is of the same quality one finds in Europe… crisp on the outside and absolutely soft within.

The pomegranate juice is sweet sans sugar and refreshing. And the entire meal costs barely Rs 400!

Indian money, by way, is accepted in many places in Karbala and Najaf, though not at this restaurant, where US dollars, of course, are welcome.

Anyway, returning to Gurdeep, he had to pay Rs 2 lakh to a recruiting agent in Punjab to get this job. He has been here for four months.

Pehley tau thoda mushkil laga (at first I found it difficult) but now I am absolutely fine. I was scared about security but this place, I find, is no Baghdad. It is very safe, and I've made lots of friends with people from Bangladesh, and there are some Indian workers here too,” says the 21-year old Indian.

One soon finds that the Bangladeshis find a lower category of jobs compared to Indians. But only a trickle of Indian workers has started to come to Iraq; expectedly security is the biggest inhibiting factor in this.

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Published on February 21, 2011
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