By MUHAMMED S. BAH
Some families in the Greater Banjul Area were reported to have been unable to slaughter sacrificial rams in this year’s Muslim feast of ‘Tobaski’ which was celebrated on Monday, 12 September 2016, as the animals were said to be scarce or too expensive for them to purchase.
When this reporter was out and about on the eve of the feast to the various livestock selling points or ‘daral’, he met with several dozens of family heads, including both men and women, going round looking for a ram of their choice and which they can afford. However, most of them were complaining about the scarcity of rams or finding suitable and affordable ones.
Mustpha Bojang, a family head who is residing in the Kanifing Municipality, said he was unable to buy a ram for himself after having gone to different places where the small ruminants are said to be sold.
“This morning I went to Abuko
(where you have the main daral) and bought a ram at D12, 000 and when I return in the evening to buy another one for myself, I was asked to pay D20, 000 for a rtam that is the same size with the one I bought earlier,” he disclosed.
He added that the rams costing D20, 000 were the cheapest ones found at Abuko.
Mr. Bojang said he then proceeded to Bakau and then the Traffic Lights area on Kairaba Avenue but could not get any ram.
“When I asked one of the ram dealers what is responsible for the scarcity of the animals this year, he told me that the rams are even scarce in Senegal where they go to buy them from and then resell and is also very expensive there,” said Mr. Bojang.
Isatou Ceesay, a woman who also came to buy a ram for her family, lamented the scarcity and expensiveness of the ones that are available.
Another family head who was coming to the Kanifing Municipality all the way from West Coast Region in search of an animal to slaughter for the feast also said he cannot afford the prices being asked for the small rams on sale. Momodou Bah called on the government to intervene in ensuring that there is enough and affordable rams in the market during such feasts.
Speaking to Ebou Bah, a Gambian dealer in small ruminants, who said he has been in such a business for the past 14 years, confirmed the scarcity and the high prices of rams in the market.
He explained that the Gambia receives most of its livestock, including rams, from the neighbouring countries such as Senegal, Mali and Maurtania.
He advised that the Gambia must address this dependency on the external market for the supply of livestock if it is to avoid such situations when people would find it difficult to see and buy suitable animals, including rams at affordable prices.
“What is stopping the Gambia Government from venturing or supporting breeders to engage in productive animal husbandry for the purpose of supplying adequate and affordable meat to local consumers?” he asked.
Mr. Bah added that if nothing is done, next year will be worst in terms of scarcity and cost.
He stressed that the government has a major role to play in promoting animal husbandry and supporting breeders in the country.
Explainnig why the rams are expensive, he said this is due to the high cost of transportation as well as the high exchange rate for the FCFA currency.
He also noted the delays they experienced at the ferry crossing points which sometimes makes them lose their animals due to hunger and lack of water to drink.
“For those that do not die, they significantly lose weight due to dehydration and lack of feed,” added Mr. Bah.
Amadou Yero Sowe, another livestock dealer, also reiterated similar concerns regarding transportation cost, etc, adding that the only solution to this perennial problem is for them to be supported to venture into animal husbandry.