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The government of Saudi Arabia on Thursday removed an 11-year ban on
livestock imports from Somalia after fears of Rift Valley Fever were allayed, senior Somali officials told the VOA.
The decision was well received across Somalia as hundreds of thousands of farmers heavily rely on animal exports to the oil-rich Middle East. Under the new arrangement, Saudi officials will closely examine animals before they are shipped off to Saudi soil.
"This is a tremendous decision for Somalis across the Horn of Africa," said Idiris Ibrahim Abdi, the livestock minister of Somaliland, the self-declared republic in northern Somalia, which has developed one of the most sophisticated animal processing plants in its port town of Berbera.
According to news accounts, the Saudi agricultural ministry said the decision is based on years of cross examination and monitoring of animal farms in Somalia.
Animal trade is one of the few surviving economic engines of Somalia''s largely destroyed economy. Business leaders and animal farmers have welcomed the Saudi decision with widespread jubilation.
"This decision will allow me to triple my animal sales to shipping companies," said Mohamed Hassan Kahde, an animal farmer in the central town of Beledweyn. He said the ban was not only bad for business, but it was also bad for the animals.
An official with the Puntland Meat Processing Authority told the VOA that they expect to export more than half a million heads of goats and cows to Saudi Arabia in time for the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage, which will be performed by early December.