Imports ban hits Bahrain meat supply
Manama, December 17, 2012
An ongoing ban on imports of Australian sheep has halved the availability of fresh meat in Bahrain, said experts, adding that the problem has been compounded by Saudi shoppers crossing the border to snap up cheaper subsidised meat.
Alternative shipments are coming in from Somalia but the animals are half the size, experts told our sister publication the Gulf Daily News (GDN).
Sources said the country needed to double its imports of Somali animals if it wanted to meet demand for fresh meat.
However, they said it would cost almost twice as much to supply the equivalent amount of Somali sheep since the price per head was almost the same as Australian livestock.
A decision to turn away a shipment of 21,000 sheep in August prompted Australia to halt exports to Bahrain.
Bahraini authorities breached an animal welfare clause when they denied the entry, meaning the animals spent days at sea before ending up in Pakistan.
Bahrain Livestock Company (BLC) chairman Ibrahim Zainal said there was half as much meat per sheep, although he stressed chilled imports were helping meet the shortfall.
"Somali sheep will not give more than 10kg of meat, but the Australian sheep would yield about 20kg," he said. "But as far as we are concerned, there is enough chilled meat in the market and there is no shortage as we know it."
Despite Somali sheep yielding about half as much as Australian animals, sources said they cost practically the same. They said since fresh meat was subsidised by the government, which keeps the market price at BD1 per kg, Australian livestock was much better.
"The benefits are less with the Somali meat, as each sheep gives a maximum of 14kg, while the Australian sheep gives a maximum of 30kg.
"The meat is just as good, since Somali exporters are run by a French administration to a high standard. But because of subsidies that keep fresh meat at BD1 per kg, it is more expensive for the country."
They said Somali sheep cost about $180 each, while Australian livestock cost about $206, even though the Australian breed was half the size.
If the average yield is 10kg of meat from a Somali sheep and 20kg from an Australian sheep, that means Bahrain is paying around $18 per kg for Somali livestock compared to $10.3 per kg for Australian imports. This also means it would cost around 75 per cent more to maintain previous fresh meat supplies using Somali livestock.
The sources said authorities had been trying to control the situation, but butchers and restaurants were not given priority in fresh meat distribution and Saudi shoppers were also raiding the market.
"The BLC needs to import more frozen meat and Somali livestock as businesses are being affected.
"These subsidies are for the benefit of Bahrain's people, so if we can control all the losses incurred, it will mean that there is more meat in the market and less expenditure - at least until Bahrain-Australia relations are OK again." – TradeArabia News Service