Livestock is the backbone of the Somaliland economy. It accounts for about 60% of the country’s gross domestic product, 70% of employment opportunities and 85% of export earnings. The livestock sector is export oriented; in 2014, a total of 3.4 million heads of livestock were exported, of which 3.1 million were sheep and goats, 0.25 million cattle and 60,000 camels. Direct taxes on these exports contributed about 15% of total government revenue.
There exists a distinct indigenous grading system for export quality livestock traded in Somaliland markets. Export quality cattle, sheep and goats are graded in three groups, viz. grades I, II and III while camels are categorized into two grades:
I and II. Animals thus categorized are exported to various countries in the gulf, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
Yemen, Oman, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia accounts for about 82% and 98% of small ruminants and camels exports respectively.
Despite ample documentation on the grading and pricing of export quality livestock in Somaliland, there exists a dearth of knowledge on how the animals are graded and priced within markets in importing countries. In addition, there is limited knowledge on how the grading applied in source markets interfaces with that practiced in importing country markets.