Hach, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, usually generates significant income for Somalia and its herdsmen, who export animals to Saudi Arabia, but the limitation this year of the number of pilgrims due to the coronavirus is a serious blow to their activity.
Only a few tens of thousands of faithful residents of Saudi Arabia were able to participate in the ceremonies this year, a far cry from the 2.5 million people in 2019.
“Business is bad,” says Yahye Hasan, who works in Mogadishu’s largest livestock market.
“The effects of coronavirus are noticeable. Arab countries do not demand animals from Somalia, and nomadic farmers who often bring their herds to the city to sell them are afraid to come, for fear of becoming infected,” Hasan explains.
“We see a drastic decrease in demand,” and supply is also less than normal, confirms Nur Hasan, another cattle dealer in the Somali capital.
The hach, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city in western Saudi Arabia, celebrated this week is one of the five pillars of Islam that all the faithful have to fulfill once in their lives if they have the means to do so.
– Camels at half price –
Nearly two-thirds of Somalia’s livestock exports go to Saudi Arabia, according to the World Bank. Thus, in 2015 more than five million head of cattle – goats, lambs, camels and cows? they traveled to that country from the ports of Somalia.
“The annulment of hash has very important consequences for the life and income of the Somali population,” Ahmed Khalif, Somalia director of the NGO Action Against Hunger, told AFP.
The livestock trade represents 60% of the income of herder households in the country, according to Khalif.
Almost three-quarters of Somalia’s export earnings come from livestock, and although there are year-round exports “most, 70% of animals [exportados], takes place during this period of the hash. “
But now, with the limitation of exports, supply far exceeds demand in local markets, causing prices to fall.
Camels, for example, sell for $ 500, half their normal value, says Khalif.
Not only do the farmers have no income, but also caring for the animals they intended to sell involves additional costs, explains Ise Muse Mohamed, a specialist trader in that sector of the northern coastal city of Eyl.
– “Sell more goats” –
“Caring for hundreds of goats or sheep during a year necessarily involves costs, such as the wages of those who have to take care of them,” he explains.
“It is a real crisis,” he says. “We think that only God can limit its impact. If it continues like this, the consequences will be even more serious,” he adds.
Rising costs and the loss of the Saudi market force ranchers like Adow Ganey, in the city of Hudur (center), to sell their animals very cheaply.
“When the family wanted to buy basic necessities, like sugar or clothes, we took one or two goats to the market” to sell them, he explains. “But this year things changed. We have to sell more goats to get the money we need.”
For Somali ranchers and merchants, already facing decades of conflict and political instability, increasingly frequent droughts, and a plague of desert locusts, hach restrictions this year could be the last straw.
“We have never seen such a situation. This affects everyone,” says Abdqadar Hashi, a cattle exporter from Hargeisa, the capital of the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland (north), where the great port of Berbera is located.