Ethiopia should take urgent steps to curb animal smuggling to the Middle East that is cutting into export earnings worth tens of millions of dollars to the poor country every year, a senior official said.
Livestock exports are an important source of hard currency for the Horn of Africa nation, which boasts 50 million cattle, 50 million sheep and goats and more than half a million camels.
It made $53 million (R394 million) from exports last year, but Berhe Gebreigziabher, at a top official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said crime was slashing revenue.
“A significant number of live animals are being smuggled to neighbouring states to be re-exported to Middle Eastern countries,” he told Reuters last week.
“Our animal sector resources are being stolen and taken to other nations. The government must adopt strict policies and control mechanism to stop the illegal trade undermining us.”
Berhe, who heads the ministry’s Animal and Plant Regulatory Department, said the authorities should support economic growth by adding value to their exports, not just selling livestock.
The government has converted tens of thousands of acres in the Oromia, Amhara and Somali regions to rangeland for the leather goods sector, which it hopes will earn $200 million (R1484 million) from exports in 2009/10 (July-June), up from $100 million (R743 million) in 2008/09.
The country used to export mostly raw hides and skins to markets in Europe and Asia, generating about $30 million (R223 million) a year in the late 1990s. It has since built dozens of tanneries, shoe factories and other leather-working facilities.
Among the major buyers of Ethiopian-made shoes are Germany, Italy, China, India and the United States.