By Sailu Bah
Dealers of small ruminants at the Banjul livestock Daral (selling point) have been expressing their fear over the scarcity of rams for the forthcoming Muslim feast of Tobaski to be observed in three weeks time.
The dealers attribute this impending scarcity to various factors, such as the high cost of the CFA Franc currency and scarcity of livestock at the traditional source markets, among others.
Talking to some of these dealers at the Banjul Daral behind the Supreme Court building on Wednesday, 11 September, 2014, they explained to this reporter that it is the CFA Francs that they use to buy and bring the animals all the way from countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
Ebrima Soh, originally from Senegal, said this year the rams are scarce at their source markets and that the limited ones that are available are very expensive.
“I have been in this business for almost 6 years now and I usually buy my rams, sheep and goats from Misra and Linguere in the neighbouring republic of Senegal, but as I speak to you now, the rams are very scarce at these places,” disclosed Soh.
He said very few animals are now coming from Senegal but expressed hope that the situation might change for the better during the last days before the feast.
Bijie Bah, a small ruminant dealer from Misra in Senegal, lamented the high cost of maintaining the animals in the Daral in terms of providing them with feed. He said the cost of a bag of hay (dried groundnut leaves and stalks) is D250 and which only lasts for two days.
“Reducing the expenses on what we spend on buying hay is one of the reasons why a lot of dealers wait until the last days before Tobaski and purchase rams as it would be very expensive to do otherwise,” he revealed.
Bah said there is no grazing place for their animals in Banjul to help them reduce expenses on feeding their live animals, adding that the expenses they incur on feed is added on the selling price of the animal.
Mamadou Touray, another small ruminant dealer, reiterated similar the concerns raised by his colleagues, adding that transporting the animals costs a lot.
“We spend a lot of money on transporting our animals from Senegal to Banjul which is very expensive,” he explained.
The issues of crossing cost and delay at the ferry crossing were raised by Majama Bah, another dealer. He said they pay D15 for each life animal and spend 2 or 3 days with their livestock waiting to cross on board the ferry,” said Bah.
He appealed to the ferry authorities to give them consideration and priority when it comes to the payment of tickets per animal and crossing in order to ensure the timely availability of rams for the forthcoming feast.
As for the head of the Daral, Abou Soh, his fear is that apart from the possible scarcity of rams this year, the animals may be very expensive. He said this is owing to the rise in the value of the CFA currency against the Gambian Dalasi. “The increasing value of the CFA continues to pose a serious problem to our business because you need more Dalasi to get few CFA and which if added on the price of the animals makes them very expensive,” he explained.
The Daral head explained that when you go with money to buy 7 sheep for example, you would end up buying 5 as that is all what your money can purchase.
He said Gambians pay D1000 and Non Gambians pay D2000 for operational license to the Gambia Livestock and Marketing Agency (GLMA). He said an additional payment of D3000 is made to the local authority for the Tobaski ram sales.
Soh also sounds a bit optimistic regarding the availability of ram. “Although dealers are not coming with rams from Senegal because of the scarcity that exists there now, we will go there to look for them and bring them to the Gambia as it is possible that the situation could change before the feast,” he said optimistically.
He concluded by appealing to both the national and local authorities to reduce the license fees and other charges and cost they incur in their trade to enable them realize reasonable returns from it.