Livestock export in Somalia hits record in 2014: UN agency

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The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Somalia exported a record of 5 million livestock to markets in the Gulf of Arabia in 2014 buoyed by heavy investments in animal disease prevention.

The export data, collected by the FAO-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and received in Nairobi on Wednesday, indicates that Somalia exported 4.6 million goats and sheep, 340,000 cattle and 77,000 camels in 2014, worth an estimated 360 million U.S. dollars.

Richard Trenchard, head of FAO's office for Somalia, said buyers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait Qatar and UAE have all taken advantage of Somalia's thriving livestock scene and its improved disease surveillance and control mechanisms.

"This shows that despite the challenges, the Somali people are successfully working to improve their economy and food security. FAO and our partners are committed to remaining engaged and involved in supporting those efforts," Trenchard said.

Livestock is the mainstay of the Somali economy, contributing 40 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is the highest number of live animals exported from Somalia in the last 20 years.

For the last five years, FAO, with financial support from the EU and the British 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.

According to FAO, in addition to animal health campaigns, modern slaughterhouses, meat and 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.

He said 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, adding that the livestock sector is at a tipping point.

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.

The UN food agency said it will in May start training 150 Somalis in curing leather, a potentially lucrative opportunity for the entire livestock sector, while an EU-funded program is currently underway to improve milk quality in northwestern Somalia, one of the country's main milk production regions. Endi

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