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Somalia will lose $500 million this year as its livestock misses out on Hajj to Saudi Arabia

Millions of livestock from Somalia have been shipped to Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca over many decades to feed some two million pilgrims from around the world. Livestock export during Hajj season is a lucrative business and is estimated to earn Somali livestock traders up to half a billion dollars a year.

Goats belonging to pastoralists at a water point in Hudur town, March 2020

But this year, Somalia’s goats and sheep will not join the pilgrimage because Hajj has effectively been cancelled by Saudi authorities due to the Covid-19 pandemic—only a limited number of locals are allowed to attend Hajj. It leaves the Somali livestock industry at a crossroads and will likely lead to tens of thousands losing their livelihoods.

“Livestock traders, as well as herders, are suffering because of Hajj cancellation. I have invested almost everything in this business because I knew the returns would be great. I cannot take the livestock there neither do I have a local market,” says Abdi Ali, a trader in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.

Somaliland, the self-declared state in northwestern Somalia, makes $250 million to $300 million each year, with the value of annual livestock export in the whole of the Horn of Africa region estimated at $1 billion.

Saudi Arabia imports over 3 million heads of goats, sheep, cattle, and camels during the Hajj season, according to a 2019 report by the Veterinary Medicine and Science.

Livestock is Somalia’s main economic activity, constituting around 75% of the country’s export and contributing to about 40% of its gross domestic product, and is one of the few economic success stories. Camels in particular are big business in Somalia, with an annual export value estimated at over $250 million. The country has more camels than any other country in the world. Read more...


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