Ethiopia doubles livestock export in the face of starvation

Elias Kifle | March 21st, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: While over 15 million Ethiopians are going hungry, Woyanne-affiliated companies are doubling profits from exporting livestock.

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia plans to more than double earnings from livestock exports to $85 million in 2009 by curbing illegal trade and opening new marketing centres, a government official said on Friday.

The Horn of Africa country sold 297,662 heads of livestock for $40 million in 2008 but hopes to raise this by exporting 429,244 livestock for $85 million this year, according to Berhe Igziabher, head of the Animal and Plant Health Regulatory Body.

“The country plans to transform the old and backward type of animal husbandry into a modern ranching system and export processed meat, hides and skin and other leather goods rather than live animals,” Berhe said.

Ethiopia has an estimated 41 million cattle, 25 million sheep, 23 million goats and 150,000 camels, but poor husbandry and contraband trade with neighbouring countries have kept the industry underdeveloped.

The country has also started programmes to check smuggling of animals through neighbouring Djibouti and Somalia.

“We know that Djibouti, a Red Sea state where animals could not thrive due to the country’s climatic conditions, has become a livestock exporter and we also know that 60 percent of livestock being exported by Somalia are those taken from Ethiopia through contraband trade,” Berhe said.

To curb the black market trade, the government has established markets in remote areas to cater for pastoralists in far flung areas such as Afar and Somali.

Berhe said the main thrust of Ethiopia’s livestock development policy would not centre on live animal exports alone.

The government has established a new institution — Ethiopian Meat and Dairy Technology Institute — whose mandate is to enhance modern dairy farming and improve the stock and quality of cattle in the country, he said.

The body will also help pastoralists protect their livestock against the vagaries of climate change by providing feeds and water and veterinary medicine in each districts, he said.

The country’s leather sector earned $103 million last year and plans to take $190 million from leather exports in 2009, according to the Ethiopian Leather Industries Association.