BERBERA, 10 November 2009 (Somalilandpress) — Days after Saudi Arabia lifted a nine-year ban on livestock imports from Somalia, the market in Hargeisa, Somaliland, has seen a 10-fold increase in sales, according to local traders.
“One thousand five hundred sheep used to be sold in the market before the recent announcement… compared to more than 16,000 animals in the market daily in the last few days,” Jama Farah Du’alle, a middleman (`dilal’) in the market, told IRIN on 7 November.
Livestock keepers in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, whose mainstay is pastoralism, said they were beginning to see a change in their fortunes.
“In the last nine years I used to earn 5,000-10,000 Somaliland shillings a day [US $1.6 – 3.2] but by Allah’s mercy in the past few days I have been earning 60,000-70,000 a day, which has really improved my life,” Du’alle said.
Somaliland’s livestock minister, Idiris Ibrahim Abdi, announced the Saudi move on 5 November. Imposed in late 2000, the ban followed an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in the Horn of Africa region.
RVF is an acute viral infectious disease of humans, cattle and sheep, which usually occurs during the rainy season. Clinically it is characterized by fever, loss of body coordination and sudden death.
Saudi Arabia, which used to be the biggest buyer of Somali livestock, said it had lifted the ban to coincide with the `haj’ pilgrimage later in November.
Better days for Berbera
The decision allows livestock keepers to ship animals to Saudi Arabia through Somaliland’s traditional livestock port of Berbera. In the past, the port also served livestock trucked from the neighbouring Ethiopian regions of Somali and Oromiya.
Berbera had been losing its importance as a business centre since 2000. Thousands of people there moved to other towns such as Hargeisa and Burao.
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“[Most] of the young men who used to work in the livestock export business as animal herders on vessels heading to Saudi Arabia, have moved to Arab countries or other urban centres within Somaliland,” a local resident said.
The Saudi decision, according to local pastoralists, has renewed hope that Somali livestock can fetch a good price. “We have suffered in the last few years because of the ban; our animals had no value in the market.
“For example one lamb was valued at only about US$20, which is much less than the cost of foodstuff,” said Rashid Haybe Illeeye, from the Lebi-Sagaale region along the Somaliland-Ethiopia border.
“Today I came with four lambs as usual – to buy food – and three of them were bought at $40-50,” Illeeye said.
A local journalist based in Burao told IRIN that the lifting of the ban was a boon to all. “The market has not seen such activity for nine years,” he explained. “The whole of Burao – from tea ladies, truckers and nomads, to porters – is doing a booming business.”