Calcuttans are having to do with poultry meat during the lockdown because mutton, the star in the city’s culinary lore, has mostly gone off the menu.
Most retail shops selling mutton are shut. The wholesalers and big retailers across the city are left with either minuscule or zero stock. For the time being, they are only supplying to restaurants that are delivering food via online food aggregators.
Meat shops have been exempt from the shutdown list by the Bengal government. While there is no shortage of chicken, mutton is nowhere to be seen because goats come from outside the state.
The city gets the bulk of its meat from haats in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. Thousands of farmers flock to these markets to sell their goats. Trucks laden with goats arrive in the livestock markets of Calcutta three to four days a week. Retailers buy from there and sell mutton at their stores across the city.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had on March 22 ordered a state lockdown in Calcutta and most of the rest of Bengal. A 21-day nation-wide lockdown, announced by the Prime Minister, took effect on March 24.
The markets at Kanpur and Etawah in Uttar Pradesh and Patna and Saharsa in Bihar have been shut. The borders are sealed and hardly any truck with goats has come to the city after March 23, said wholesalers and retailers across Calcutta.
“Before the lockdown, I used to supply around 250kg of mutton to restaurants and hotels across Calcutta. When the lockdown was announced, I was left with a week’s stock. I curtailed my retail supply so I could cater to restaurants. My stock ended before the end of March. I am sitting at home now,” said Reyaz Ahmed, a supplier in New Market.
Zia-ur Rehman, a trader at the livestock market in Narkeldanga, said over 15-20 trucks, each with 300-400 goats, would reach Narkeldanga every day before the lockdown. No truck is coming now.
Shiladitya Chaudhury, the owner of Oudh 1590, used to need more than 150kg of mutton for the five outlets of the chain. Three are open now but only for delivery. “The amount of mutton has come down to a little over 20kg,” he said.
Shiraz Golden Restaurant in Mullickbazar, which is synonymous with mutton biryani for many Calcuttans, is delivering food via online aggregators.
“We needed around 150kg of mutton every day. Now, we are lucky to get 10-12kg per day. We can make only a few plates of mutton biryani,” said Ishtiaque Ahmed, co-owner of the restaurant.