Importing sheep from Georgia concerns merchants, may be good for consumers

Sheep are corralled into a pin ahead of Eid Al-Adha in this undated photo. This year, people have expressed anger at the rising price of sheep with some saying they may not be able to take part in sac
(Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Sheep merchants urged the Ministry of Agriculture to revise its recent decision to allow the import of sheep, both live and slaughtered, from Georgia, a decision that, they say, will have a negative impact on the local market, where traders already struggle with weaker demand prompted by the difficult economic situation.اضافة اعلان

Sheep merchant Sami Bader told Jordan News that merchants have been going through difficult circumstances due to the high cost of sheep raising and the weaker demand.

Sales went down since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he said, adding that “priorities are different now, people cannot pay JD100, for instance, to buy a sheep, they want to save their money, fearing for what the future holds in store for them”.

Regarding imports from Georgia, Bader said fodder there is much less expensive than in Jordan, as is veterinary medicine, and therefore, “Georgian sheep might be cheaper than Jordanian sheep.”

Local sheep, however, he claims, “remains the best in terms of quality.”
Yahya Abdallat, another sheep merchant, believes “the diversity of import sources will create a competitive environment in the local market” and competition will lead to some merchants lowering their prices, even if that means losses for them.

Big merchants’ monopoly over the sheep trade means prices are controlled by them, Abdallat said by way of justifying his support for more competition in the field.

He said that since the beginning of the pandemic, demand for sheep has been weaker, which means that both customers and merchants are suffering.
Social media was full of rumors that the price of lamb had gone down after news about imports of sheep from Georgia was made public. Head of the General Association for Foodstuffs Merchants, Khalil Haj Tawfik, denied that lamb prices dropped, putting these rumors to rest.

Assistant secretary-general of the Ministry of Agriculture for Livestock, Ali Abu Noqta, told Jordan News that “a committee from the ministry evaluated all the health aspects related to importing Georgian sheep, and allowed them to be imported into the Kingdom under certain conditions, after ensuring that they are safe.”

Jordan had banned import of Georgian sheep for years due to the epidemiological situation and its impact on the health of the sheep that would be imported.

Abu Noqta said that the decision to allow imports now will help diversify meat import sources and supply consumers with appropriate quality and good price meat, stressing that the ministry will not back down on its decision.
He said that merchants have been going through difficult circumstances for too long, and that importing Georgian sheep will not affect them more.

He also said that one of the reasons for their woes is their importing big quantities of sheep, which led to overstocking, and that worsened an already difficult situation brought about by the pandemic. 

Jordanian investor in Georgia Radwan Al-Ajarmeh claimed on a local media outlet that he was subjected to great pressure from Jordanian investors in the meat sector to stop supplying Georgian sheep to Jordan and alleged that some Jordanian investors offered him large financial compensation for relinquishing the export of Georgian sheep to Jordan.

In a previous interview with Jordan News Ajarmeh had said that “even though the meat would be sold as Georgian, it is 95 percent Jordanian,” since he had taken Jordanian sheep to raise in Georgia, and that people in Jordan would be happy to buy the meat — of local quality at an affordable price — noting that local meat is pricey due primarily to the hike in fodder price and shortage of grazing land.

Minister of Agriculture Khaled Hneifat, who announced a few days ago that the government would allow the import of live and slaughtered sheep from Georgia, said that based on a report from a technical committee that visited Georgia a month ago to assess the health of animals there, the ministry invites anyone who wants to import live and slaughtered sheep from Georgia to obtain the needed licenses.

He also said that the local production of red meat is enough to meet 38 percent of the local needs, and that over 60 percent is imported from different sources.

Hneifat also stressed that diversifying the sources of imported meat provides consumers with higher quality at a more competitive price.

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