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November 06, 2009

Ban on Somali livestock by Saudi Arabia lifted

by Konye Obaji Ori

Somalia’s livestock-based economy has received a major boost as its major market, Saudi Arabia lifts its 11 year ban on imported livestock from Somalia. The lift comes after many Somali farmers suffered from the severe east African droughts that dried the soil and dehydrated livestock to death. Last month, a U.S. based NGO embarked on a project that saw some 2000 families in the autonomous region of Puntland, northeastern Somalia, from livestock supplies.

"The livestock still hasn’t recovered from the 2005 drought. And already we have to confront a new drought. The drought cycle is getting shorter and shorter - every three or four years instead of every 10," a district veterinary official was quoted as saying by local reporters.

Saudi Arabia banned the import of sheep, goats and cattle from Somalia to prevent the spread of Rift Valley fever, but after 11 years, the ban has been lifted. According to Somaliland Interior Minister Ismail Adam Osman, the ban has caused a great suffering to Somaliland whose economy depended mainly on livestock export.

The Saudi agricultural ministry said the decision is based on years of cross examination and monitoring of animal farms in Somalia.

Animal farmers and business leaders have welcomed the decision with extensive jubilation. Pastoralists and traders now prepare to profit from increased demand for livestock in the forthcoming Eid al-Adha festival when Muslims demand for livestock is high, following the traditional sacrifice of an animal.

The lifting of the ban was announced in a press statement from the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture. The Ministry said the lifting came to secure supplies of livestock at reasonable prices to locals and pilgrims during the upcoming Eid Al-Adha and the Hajj season. It emphasized the Ministry would strictly enforce animal health legislation and scan all imported live animals for possible diseases.

"This is a tremendous decision for Somalis across the Horn of Africa," said Idiris Ibrahim Abdi, the livestock minister of Somaliland.

The Puntland Meat Processing Authority told reporters that they expect to export more than half a million herds of goats and cattle to Saudi Arabia in time for the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage, which will be performed by early December.

According to experts, the self-declared republic of Somaliland is expected to achieve major economic gains from the reopened Saudi market. In Somaliland, were political stability provides farmers with predictable conditions, a boost in livestock production and an export is easily manageable.

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