Ethiopia tries to crack down on livestock black market

By Matthew Newsome, in Addis Ababa


Ethiopia’s large livestock industry is set to undergo a shake-up following a new livestock trading bill, passed on 21 January. The new law, due to be enforced in March, is designed to tighten Ethiopia’s livestock market, increasing its efficiency and value by eliminating middle-men, unregulated animal markets and illegal cross-border trades.

“This is the start of the new masterplan to develop and maximise Ethiopia’s livestock sector. All stakeholders and livestock resources, professionals, traders and breeders will be incorporated into the new regulatory system,” said Taddesse Sori, livestock expert at Ethiopia’s ministry of agriculture.

Ethiopia’s livestock sector, representing one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), has been dominated by an unregulated system that has caused price instability. Under the new law, all traders must be licensed, all animals will be registered and all livestock markets will be identified either as primary or secondary, and will be classified accordingly. Regional and city authorities will administer auction markets, while any transaction of livestock outside of unlicensed markets will be illegal under the new legislation.

The new standardisation of Ethiopia’s livestock sector is being welcomed by many of the country’s livestock and meat businesses. Tesfalidet Hagos, general manager of Luna Export, believed the new law will reduce an increasing gap between the original market price of livestock and inflated retail prices. “The new bill will squeeze out those who are not bringing value to the market,” he said. “The market was too fragmented and service delivery was inefficient. There was little quality control, limited accountability and poor transparency. The regulatory aspect will help develop the market as it needs to be reorganised,” he said.

Ethiopia is home to Africa’s largest livestock population, and is Africa’s top livestock producer and exporter. Ethiopia has 52.1m cattle, 24.2m sheep, 22.6m goats and 987,006 camels, according to the government’s agricultural survey in 2012, making it Africa’s top livestock producer and exporter. The new regulations are expected to help fight a dominant illegal cross-border livestock trade, which has caused Ethiopia’s livestock sector to suffer significant losses. It is estimated by the Ethiopia agriculture ministry that illegal trades currently account for around 75% of the country’s overall foreign livestock trade, which is currently estimated by the ministry at around two million animals losing legitimate traders between US$180m to US$360m a year.

The poor regulation of Ethiopia’s meat export industry has also caused traders problems abroad – for instance, a temporary ban on Ethiopian meat products by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates from 2007 to 2010 because of poor quality controls. The new raft of regulations is expected to better control the quality of Ethiopia’s livestock.

“The value of the livestock market will increase if we are able to increase sanitary requirements and quality aspects of the export market,” said Sori.

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