Livestock market not in ‘sheep’ shape

Customers and traders both confirmed that the prices of all breeds of sheep have surged by 40-50 percent.

Customers and traders both confirmed that the prices of all breeds of sheep have surged by 40-50 percent.

The prices of sacrificial livestock are rising in Jeddah and across the Kingdom. During a visit, Arab News found the livestock market crowded with customers and traders with choc-a-bloc traffic. Saudis and Sudanese expats competed with each other to sell their animals.

Asian expats prefer to buy the Swakini breed from Sudan owing to its high fat content and low price while Saudis and most Arabs opt for local varieties that are more expensive.

Customers and traders both confirmed that the prices of all breeds of sheep have surged by 40-50 percent. Experts say the prices would drop drastically on the second day of Eid.

“The delay in shipments from Sudan and other African countries has slightly affected the supplies of imported sheep,” said Shaikh Fahad Al Sulaimi, a leading importer of livestock. He was surprised that even locally farmed sheep such as the Hurri and Najdi had witnessed a price rise. The Hurri, a local breed popular in the western region was selling for SR1,000 until a few days ago but is now going for SR1,700 and above depending on the size. Swakini, the imported breed from Sudan was earlier priced at SR500 and now is in the range of SR700-1000 in Jeddah.

Some sellers vented their frustration at their inability to make a sizeable profit. “I have spent time and money in the last few months to make a decent income. If I am unable to earn any profit, then what is the use of trading?” asked Hamdi Al-Sulaimi, a Saudi sheep seller.

“I used to buy the Swakini for SR700 but I spent SR1,100 this time,” said Mohammed Aziz, a Pakistani who purchased one animal.

The Najdi and Naeemi breeds have fewer customers in Jeddah, but they are the most sought after in Riyadh and Dammam regions. The price of Najdi has increased from SR1,100 to SR1,800 and Naimi’s price is also hovering in the high range.

The situation is no different in Riyadh.

Shamrani, with sunglasses hanging from the breast pocket of a traditional white thobe, sells his sheep for between SR1,600 and 2,000 — about 10 percent more than last year.

“It’s more costly. Not like last year,” says Nasser Al-Qahtani, a clean-shaven medical student who arrived at the Riyadh market with his best friend, Muath Al-Obaida.

Qahtani — far from thin himself — says he can tell a good sheep by feeling its flesh and fat.

“Fat one better,” he says in English, after finding one that felt just right. Despite this year’s higher prices, he and Obaida hand over SR1,900 for the animal, about SR400 more than during the previous Eid. The rump of the chosen sheep is sprayed with red paint, marking it for their collection later. “The closer we get to Eid, the more expensive the slaughter animals become,” said a resident of Saudi Arabia’s north, who gave his name only as Abu Majed.

He will sacrifice just one animal this year, instead of his usual two, “because they are so expensive now.” “There are fewer sheep than last year,” says Asef Nemah, a vendor who just arrived at the Yasamin Eid market with a truckload of the Naimy breed from about 70 km outside the capital.

The smiling Nemah, with hands on his hips and a red-check shemagh wrapped around his head, says sheep are not coming this year from war-torn Syria, which traditionally had been a key supplier.

Obaida says the absence of Syrian animals doesn’t bother him — he prefers the taste of Saudi Naimy.

“It’s very nice,” he says.


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