QUETTA - Despite the fact that Eid-ul-Azha is approaching closer sales of sacrificial animals have not gained momentum in the provincial capital so far owing to their exorbitant prices. A market survey conducted by The Nation divulged that the prices of sacrificial animals had augmented as compared to the previous years prices. The survey conducted at Eastern Bypass, Sariab Road and Balali cattle market showed that the price of sheep had witnessed the highest increase, followed by the prices of bulls, cows and goats. Animal sellers are asking Rs 18,000 to Rs 26,000 for an average-size sheep, which was available at Rs 13,000 to Rs 18,000 last year. Similarly, the price of bulls and cows has risen, as sellers were asking Rs 35,000 to Rs 45,000 for a normal-size bull, while the prices of bigger bulls were around Rs 70,000 to Rs 85,000. Though people in Balochistan give preference to sheep, the prices of goat were also apparently out of peoples reach. The survey showed that sellers were demanding Rs 16,000 to Rs 20,000 for an average-size goat. About towering prices of animals, cattle merchants allege that prices were hiked because of, high prices of fodder, floods and increase in transport expenses. They said, besides these causes, smuggling of animals to Iran and Afghanistan was a significant cause of price-hike. Jamal Khan Langov, an animal seller said smuggling of cattle to Iran and Afghanistan was one of the main reasons behind sky- rocketing prices of sacrificial animals and meat in the province. He said unprecedented increase in petroleum products also compelled sellers to increase prices of sacrificial animals. 'Cattle traders get lucrative price of their animals when they sell them at bordering towns like Chaman and Taftan from where these animals are easily smuggled to Iran and Afghanistan, he said. He argued that if government properly control illegal smuggling of cattle to other countries, the prices would soon come down. Another trader Abdul Rafiq talking to The Nation at Eastern Bypass cattle market said they were waiting for the customers. He said that though a large number of people visited the market but a few of them purchased sacrificial animals. Abdul Qayyum, a customer said that he had been in search of a sacrificial animal at an affordable price for last three days but did not succeed yet. He said that he was waiting for decrease in prices. Officials of Livestock Department said the skyrocketing of prices of cattle was traders bid to earn overnight profits. They said five to 10 per cent increase could be understandable because of the increase in prices of petroleum products and smuggling. They said prices of sacrificial animals would fall in a couple of days, as no seller wanted to return home with his animals after spending a huge amount on fares and freight charges.