|FoodWorks' Robert Lindley inspects fish at Berbera|
Somaliland is NOT Somalia; what used to be the British Somaliland, a protectorate not a colony, is democratic and fiercely independent (since 1991). It's peaceful, relatively secure and has a significant diaspora of British-Somalis many of whom are returning to their roots bringing investment and western expectations of the way things should be run. Food safety standards are still not what they should be, but at least there are people returning who know why it's important to have them.
|These Red Snappers are some of the largest we've seen|
What's the reason? Fisher folk say they would rather work in the more climatically comfortable capital city of Hargeisa in the uplands. Fishing is a hard, dangerous job and temperatures get up to around 42 deg C. Equally the rewards are limited compared with other livelihood options. With the economic boom in the capital, jobs are easier to come by and the living conditions are better. The removal in 2009 of a ban by Saudi Arabia led to a surge in live animal exports that created jobs for truck drivers and handlers so there are just too many other better paying opportunities.
|What remains of the fishing fleet|
So what are the opportunities? We won't disclose our commercial advice to our client, but we know that it will take a rather large investment of public funds to rehabilitate the fishery. The World Bank apparently has a project in the pipeline that we'll watch with interest. It will have to deal with a complex of problems starting from the competition for labour from more attractive jobs, the collapsed infrastructure, a lack of boats or serious boat-building capability and the fact that the market demand for fish is limited.
It's this last piece that is most puzzling, because looking at the quality/size of what can be caught it seems that there should be a great high-value market, especially in the rich Gulf States. The reality is somewhat different. In fact the UAE gets supplied with the same kind of fish from the Gulf of Aden more cheaply from Oman and nearer to home. With lack of volume, no quality control, high shipping costs and lack of air transport, Somaliland can't compete. Hopefully this situation will change as Somaliland continues to develop, but meantime the fishery remains one of the few in the world that is under-exploited. Not necessarily a bad thing.
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