Inefficiencies, an outdated infrastructure and a tainted global image, courtesy of piracy, are not only holding back livestock exports but curtailing efforts to make Kismayo port profitable, said Ibrahim Ahmed Abdinoor, chief executive officer of the African Shipping Line, which has offices in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Dubai.
“The livestock export sector has not been fully exploited, because of operational complexities,” he told GlobalMeatNews. Many livestock producers within Kismayo’s Jubaland state have “huge stocks of livestock [and] want to start the trade, but they cannot access ships to move their consignments to markets in the Gulf States”, he said, explaining that large vessels were still avoiding the port for fear of attacks from pirates.
“Since 2011 there hasn’t been a case of reported piracy, but noone has come out to declare Somalia free from piracy, which has made many shipping lines shy off the ports, hurting exports,” he added, calling for an international summit to assess piracy in the region, hopefully making a declaration that would boost confidence.
Despite the takeover of the port from Al-Shabaab militants by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in 2013, it is limited to exporting goats and sheep because only small ships dock at Kismayu, said Abdihakim Hassan Seif, a pastoralist and clearing/forwarding agent at the port.
“The port needs more berths and modernisation to improve efficiency and attract large vessels so as the export can open up not only for cattle but also camels,” he said, adding that Kismayo currently exports less than a million annually, when there is demand for exports exceeding 2 million-a-year.
In 2014, Somalia exported 5 million head of livestock to the Gulf, with a similar number being exported in 2015 – records for Somalia since its central government collapsed in 1991. This means livestock contributes 40% the country’s gross domestic product, according to UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports, with sheep and goats being the top export earners.
Livestock worth 60% of GDP
“The industry has been surviving with lots of constraints, but if all challenges are unlocked, our projections show that livestock exports could contribute to more than 60% of the country’s GDP,” said Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdi, senior consultant for Southlink Consultants, a Nairobi-based international consultancy firm focused on development and research in the Horn of Africa.
Osman Liban, an official of the Jubaland administration, said donor money has been invested in animal disease control to make Somali livestock acceptable to international markets, and had financed trade facilitation and promotion. Some money has also been spent on rehabilitating Kismayo port, he said.
“We hope with such initiatives we will be able to realise our full potential in livestock exports,” he said, adding that Kismayo port, which was opened in 1964, is Somalia’s second-largest port after Mogadishu. It was last refurbished in 1984.