Somalia’s food export potential


Country can become net exporter of agricultural products, seafood and livestock with minimal investments, according to government

The Federal Government of Somalia has put up proposals calling on investors to venture into the country’s agricultural, fisheries and livestock industries.

The government sees lucrative opportunities that can make Somalia a major exporter of products from these industries, and seeks investment partnerships in public-private arrangements.

Somalia has about 8.9 million hectares of cultivable land. For now, the government is particularly keen on promoting investments in the huge swathes of productive land in the Up­per and Lower Shebelle regions. These regions have the potential to produce enough food for the coun­try and meet bigger export demands.

Agriculture is the largest economic sector in Somalia, contributing more than 65 per cent to the national GDP. Even now, Somalia exports food crops to other parts of the continent, the Middle East and Europe. The federal government is convinced that with more investments in this sector, the country’s agricultural export capacity can expand significantly.

In June 2014, for example, following minimal support to commercial farmers by the Ministry of Agriculture, Somalia exported its largest consignment of banana in decades. The exports went to Asian and Middle East countries.

The ministry is now convinced that with relatively modest investments in irrigation systems and the construction of roads connecting the key agricultural centres like Jowhar and Afgoye to national and international markets, a lot more can be achieved in the agricultural sector. Such investment would not only increase agricultural production, but also boost employment, nurture other supply chain enterprises and provide speedy returns.

One of the projects that the agriculture ministry proposes is the rehabilitation of Lower Shabelle Irrigation scheme and the connected flood control structure. This is detailed in the federal government’s latest National Investment Priorities – a document that highlights priority investment opportunities.

The ministry estimates that with an investment of about $10 million, not only will the irrigation infrastructure in this high potential region be rehabilitated to regain full capacity, but also will flood control and secondary structures such as barrages, primary canals, relief canals, river embankments and roads be refurbished to support agricultural production and access.

The proposed three-year project will entail rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure in Lower Shabelle; rehabilitation of six Barrages in Afgoi, Marka and Qoryooley; rehabilitation of about 140km of primary and flood relief canals; rehabilitation 40km of river embankments; and refurbishment of 100km of secondary roads to re-establish better access to agricultural inputs and markets.

The pro­ject further aims to support provision of seeds of major crops that are grown in the area, plus the necessary fertilizer. Lower Shabelle is conducive for many crops, including maize, sugar cane, bananas, sesame and vegetables.

Further to agriculture, Somalia has the potential to produce 300,000 to 400,000 tons of fish and other types of seafood annually, thanks to its long coastline of more than 3300km – the longest in Africa. To achieve this, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, much like the agriculture counterpart, is inviting investments to boost the country’s production of seafood.

The government estimates that with about $46 million, it is possible to establish cold storage and processing facilities along the country’s coastline, in addition to acquiring equipment and setting up supply chain systems to promote fishing.

Fisheries experts estimate that once built to capacity, the fishing industry in Somalia will employ at least 20 people on land for every five jobs cre­ated at sea.

The ministry suggests that investing in cold storage facilities with the capacity of up to 500 metric tons per day in Mogadishu and smaller scales of up to 100 metric tons in towns such as Bosasso, Kismayo, Barawe, Hobyo, Merca, and Berbera, will significantly improve fish exports and enhance Somalia’s global competitiveness in the fish and seafood markets. That will be over and above meeting the domestic demand.

In 2014, following increased stability, the country managed to export five million livestock to the Middle East alone

Somalia’s livestock industry is also looking forward to enhanced export capacity. In 2014, following increased stability, the country managed to export five million livestock to the Middle East alone.

Export data from the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) indicates that the 4.6 million goats and sheep, 340,000 cattle and 77,000 camels earned exporters an estimated $360 million.

The Ministry of Livestock, Forestry and Range is thus convinced that construction of an international standard Halal livestock export slaughterhouse will further boost the country’s already positive prospects in the industry, and enable it to supply higher volumes of packed products.

The government is looking to a slaughterhouse with full traceability systems to ensure that the meat processed at the facility is hygienic, safe, tested for purity and can be traced to source. This will help to fulfil the demands of importers as well as of domestic consumers.

According to the ministry, an investment of about $14 million should make this happen and add to employment creation. Further, it stands to encourage more investment in the expansive livestock sector across the country.

Somalia has one of the highest livestock per capita in the world, given the generally pastoralist lifestyle of a majority of the population.

In terms of numbers, goats are the most, followed by sheep, camels and cattle in that order. Those marked for export often end up almost exclusively in the Middle East, and usually as live animals.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, livestock played a critical role in boosting the Somali economy through high internal and external demand. The conflict that erupted thereafter disrupted this economy. However, things are looking up.

Statistics confirm that the five million animals the country exported in 2014 made the highest count of live animal exports in 20 years. Economists predict increased demand for livestock from Somalia, with importers in the Gulf and Middle East regions particularly preferring livestock from the country.

Apparently, livestock from Somalia are popular for their taste and body shape, and also due to the fact that they are generally natural breeds.