Mogadishu. - Somalia in 2014 exported a record 5 million livestock to markets in the Gulf of Arabia thanks to heavy investments in animal disease prevention backed by the European Union and the United Kingdom, FAO said on Wednesday. This is the highest number of live animals exported from Somalia in the last 20 years.
The export data, collected by the FAO -managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), indicates that Somalia exported 4.6 million goats and sheep, 340,000 cattle and 77,000 camels in 2014, worth an estimated $360 million.
Livestock is the mainstay of the Somali economy, contributing 40 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product.
"This is a key milestone for the Somalia’s livestock sector that reflects the large investments being made to support the commercial development of the livestock sector to become more competitive in international markets," said Said Hussein Iid, Somalia’s Minister of Livestock, Forestry and Range. "This is important for both Somalia’s economy in general and for the livelihoods of the millions of livestock owners throughout Somalia."
"The sector’s potential is enormous," Iid added.
"This shows that despite the challenges, the Somali people are successfully working to improve their economy and food security," said Richard Trenchard, head of FAO's office for Somalia. "FAO and our partners are committed to remaining engaged and involved in supporting those efforts."
Buyers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait Qatar and United Arab Emirates have all taken advantage of Somalia's thriving livestock scene and its improved disease surveillance and control mechanisms. Saudi Arabia, in particular, has contributed to steadily rising exports over the last six years, following a move to lift a 9-year ban on the import of livestock from Somalia aimed at preventing the spread of Rift Valley fever.
Return on investments
For the last five years, FAO, with financial support from the European Union and the UK government, has engaged with the Somali government to invest heavily in livestock infrastructure, fodder production and livestock vaccination and treatment services. Transboundary animal diseases have been a major point of attention because they can kill large numbers of animals, resulting in food shortages, market disruptions and trade and export barriers.
Every year, FAO vaccinates an average of 12 million animals in Somalia against peste des petits ruminants (PPR) – a highly contagious and often deadly viral disease of goats. Another 12 million goats are treated and vaccinated every year against Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a source of major losses among Somali livestock producers.
In addition to animal health campaigns, four modern slaughterhouses, four meat markets and three livestock markets are also boosting local livestock trade across Somalia.
"There is no doubt that livestock is, and will remain for a long time, central to the Somali economy," said Trenchard.
Continued investment in building Somali livestock institutions is key to boosting incomes, reducing the vulnerability of rural households, and steering the future growth of the sector, according to Trenchard, who says the livestock sector is at a tipping point.
"An investment in livestock means an investment in economic growth for the whole of Somalia," he said
Added value from by-products
With trade of live animals booming, FAO is now working with the Somali government and partners to identify other opportunities to derive added value from livestock by-products.
In 2012, under a UK-funded initiative, Somali pastoralists were trained in soap manufacturing using camel bone marrow and trained jewelers carved spoons, necklaces and flower vases out of the dense bones.
In May 2015, FAO will start training 150 Somalis in curing leather, a potentially lucrative opportunity for the entire livestock sector, while an EU-funded programme is currently underway to improve milk quality in northwestern Somalia, one of the country’s main milk production regions. The 2014 figures represent an optimum level of live animal export for Somalia, according to FAO experts, who urge producers to shift focus towards export of meat and other by-products.
A livestock certification system developed by FAO along the Galkayo-Bossaso livestock corridor will further help to ensure high quality livestock for local consumption and export.