number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the United Arab
Emirates and India, are still trying to take full advantage of the
lack of supply to Saudi Arabia’s beef market — estimated to be
worth SR1.5 billion a year — following Riyadh’s decision to ban
all beef imports from Europe as a result of the outbreak of Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
of these countries themselves have had temporary bans slapped on them,
or are finding it difficult to satisfy the new regulations imposed on
all this means for Saudi consumers is that there is an almost complete
lack of frozen meat available in the supermarkets. A walk round a
number of well-known stores in Jeddah revealed that freezers that used
to overflow with frozen red meat are now
being filled with other items.
are left with the alternative of fish and chicken. But how much fish
and chicken can one eat, especially as their price has shot up
dramatically as a result of the ban on other meat imports? And worse
still, the little frozen meat that is available in limited numbers of
stores, typically from Brazil, itself is becoming prohibitively
Kingdom, where per capita chicken consumption is growing consistently,
produces 200 million kilo of poultry meat annually.
Arabia imports about two-thirds of its beef for local consumption, put
at 100,000 tons in 1999. It also imports 11 million tons of poultry
meat and poultry meat products annually from many countries including
the Netherlands, France and Brazil.
situation in the meat market is made more complicated by the
continuing ban on imports from many African countries following the
outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in southwestern Saudi Arabia last year.
Commerce Ministry has renewed its warning to Saudi businessmen against
importing banned products, or in any other way dealing with European
companies involved in exporting meat that may possibly be contaminated
are also obstacles being faced by the countries whose livestock has
not been banned.
authorities, for instance, trying to increase their share in the
Kingdom’s beef market, recently threatened to halt meat exports to
Saudi Arabia when the Commerce Ministry blocked the entry of 40
shipments of sheep carcasses from both Australia and New Zealand
because they allegedly contained spinal cord residual.
Australian Meat Authority said the difficult conditions imposed by
Saudi authorities would affect negatively the country’s meat
industry and indicated that meat traders from Australia and New
Zealand may stop exporting to the Kingdom altogether.
is still hoping for the Kingdom to lift a year-long ban on meat
imports imposed following the outbreak of Rift Valley Fever.
exported one million sheep a month to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf
states before the ban, which has cost them millions of dollars. Large
quantities of frozen meat also arrived in the Kingdom from Sudan
before the ban, which first covered livestock but was later extended
to include all meat shipments.
Minister of Animal Resources Dr. Riyak Guy argues that since other
Gulf and Arab countries have lifted the ban on livestock imports from
Sudan, the Kingdom should be expected to follow suit.
had hoped to increase its animal exports to $200 million by the end of
last year but the ban had a devastating effect on local exporters in a
country where hard currency earnings from livestock come second to oil
too is suffering.
the Ministry of Commerce slapped a temporary ban on the import of
chilled, frozen and canned meat as well as live sheep and cattle from
India, the Kingdom had imported 1.264 million kilos of fresh and
frozen meat valued at SR11.817 million from India in the first half of
2000, the last period for which statistics are available.
direct imports, animal products from India enter the market via Dubai,
where some major Indian dealers have set up meat processing and
April this year, the Commerce Ministry investigated several importers
following complaints that they sidestepped government measures to
prevent entry of contaminated meat products into the domestic markets.
quantities of banned products have been seized at several entry points
to the Kingdom.
importers reportedly made changes to their consignments and packed
them with forged labels and documents to make it look as though the
products had originated from countries not on the ban list.
concerned agencies discovered that Saudi businessmen colluded with
their counterparts from Arab and Asian countries in procuring meat
from banned sources and tampering with documents to mislead the
grew suspicious when they noticed an unusual rise in meat imports from
countries which had not previously exported or re-exported meat to the
surreptitious trade prompted Saudi Arabia to toughen its ban on beef
imports from Britain, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany,
Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Denmark, Spain and
Ireland. Total losses suffered by the EU countries all together on
account of the prolonged Saudi ban runs into billions of Saudi riyals.
the banned countries are fighting back.
Netherlands, which has lost more than SR400 million meat export
opportunities with Saudi Arabia, sent an advisory to Gulf governments
at the beginning of this month detailing the stringent measures
undertaken by European countries to ensure their livestock is free of
all disease, including BSE.
BSE scare has resulted in a more prolonged ban on imports of Dutch
meat, which the Kingdom banned way back in 1997. It only imposed a
total ban on imports from all other EU countries last year.
than 360 million consumers in Europe are now buying meat and meat
products still banned by the Kingdom and other Gulf countries,” says
Jos G. van de Vooren, agriculture counselor at the Netherlands
Embassy, who has been vigorously campaigning for a lifting of the ban.
said yesterday that the Netherlands has imposed tighter restrictions
to reassure consumers that Dutch poultry exports are free of
contamination. “We have introduced a system to fix obligatory
stickers on fresh poultry to warn consumers of possible salmonella or
bacteria contamination,” he noted.
measures currently in place in the Netherlands, to be complied with by
all companies exporting poultry products to Gulf states, also include
taking adequate hygiene measures, regulations for cleaning and
disinfecting poultry houses, quality checks and effective control of
in Britain mean that only this poultry market is likely to witness any
growth. The Saudi ministry’s latest directive to importers and
chambers of commerce and industries comes in the wake of new
revelations that BSE is now possibly breaking out among sheep in
is under way to ascertain whether sheep diagnosed in the early 1990s
with scrapie — a BSE-like disease endemic in sheep since the 19th
century — really had BSE.
Additional reporting by Omar Al-Zobidy and Ghazanfar Ali Khan