High fodder prices threaten livelihoods

High fodder prices, drought and government policies have caused a sharp drop in livestock numbers in Jordan in the past year, affecting livelihoods and meat prices, agriculture experts say.

“Many livestock breeders slaughtered their animals after the government’s decision last year to slash fodder subsidies to livestock breeders,” Ahmad al-Faour, president of the Jordan Farmers’ Union (JFU), told IRIN.

“The abrupt decision left the farmers confused and many of them chose to slaughter their animals because they couldn’t afford to buy animal feed at high global prices,” he said.

“Jordan is a rural and Bedouin society. Many people rely on animal husbandry to make a living. It is a traditional way of life. It is difficult to abandon it and switch to something else,” he said, adding that slaughtering the animals and selling them did not benefit livestock breeders who ended up being exploited by middlemen, according to al-Faour.

In March the Ministry of Agriculture launched a survey to count livestock with a view to better organising the distribution of fodder subsidies. It found that there had been a significant drop in the number of livestock.

Year

Locally produced
fodder/tonnes

Imported
fodder/tonnes

2001

264,100

1,092,900

2002

315,400

1,046,600

2003

444,900

1,380,900

2004

356,800

1,278,500

2005

387,400

1,330,800

2006

268,400

1,655,500

“We covered more than 97 percent of the sheep and goats… and the process is still going on for cows and camels. The number of sheep and goats stood at 4.1 million. A verification campaign held recently in which we visited all the farmers that have got their animals numbered, showed a drop of at least 700,000 animals, most of them were slaughtered,” Amjad Darwish, head of the National Project for Livestock Numbering at the Ministry of Agriculture, told IRIN.

“Livestock breeders are entitled to buy 10kg of subsidised fodder every month for every sheep they own. This quantity is sold at a subsidised price of 150 Jordanian dinars [US$211] per tonne. The farmer has to buy any additional fodder at around 250 Jordanian dinars [$352] per tonne,” Abdel Fattah al-Kilani from the Consumer Protection Association said.

According to him, the subsidised quantity covers one third of farmers’ needs.

Drought

Successive droughts have crippled the agriculture sector, affecting pastures and fodder cultivation, officials said. “Jordan is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world in terms of water resources. Therefore, we cannot depend on large amounts of water to build an agricultural policy,” al-Faour said. 


Photo: Maria Font de Matas/IRIN
Successive droughts have crippled the agriculture sector, affecting pastures and fodder cultivation, officials said

“The government gave priority to drinking water. We do not deny the importance of this, but at the same time there should be more focus on agriculture, as food is as important to humans as water,” he said, adding that “Jordan should utilise every drop of rain that falls on its territory”.

Meanwhile local meat prices have almost doubled since the early summer, according to al-Kilnai.

Subsidy policy to be revised?

“The increase in global fodder prices, which reached 300 percent since the beginning of the year, prompted the government to revise its subsidy policy,” al-Kilani said.
In August, Minister of Agriculture Muzahim Muhaisin said the government was considering increasing fodder subsidies, according to local newspapers.

A group of MPs has also demanded an increase in the amount of subsidised fodder from 10 to 20 kilograms (per sheep per month), something that will be discussed in parliament in early October, al-Kilani said.

Al-Faour believes this sector should receive more support. “If you need to revive this important resource, you need to put in place a strategy that should continue for no less than five years to start seeing some results,” he said.

At the World Food Summit in Rome in June, the Food and Agriculture Organization listed Jordan as one of the seven countries most vulnerable to rising food costs.
 
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