The Senegalese have decided to celebrate Tabaski as usual, the tailors have stocked up on orders and now, it’s time for the sheep sellers to rub their hands.
“All the rams you see here have been sold. Only a few are not yet. But they will find a good buyer by the end of the day,” says Malick Ciss, who sells his animals in the public square of Ngor, a small village in the western district of Dakar.
Sitting comfortably in his camping tent, Cissé cuts out boxes intended for feeding his many sheep. One would think there was a lack of takers for his merchandise. But this is not the case. It’s just that “after paying for their rams, some clients entrust them to me to keep them until the day of the feast”.
“Tabaski predates Covid-19. And whatever the situation, people will celebrate this holiday. Can you imagine a Senegal without Tabaski? It will probably never happen, otherwise it would be the end of the world,” he quipped, smiling.
A few cables away, Badara Samb readjusts the tent sheltering her sheep to protect herself from the scorching heat that emerges at this time of the day. In his thirties, the young man says he does not feel the effects of the coronavirus on his business.
“I’ve been in the industry for about fifteen years, but I haven’t noticed any change compared to previous years. People buy the sheep as usual. We don’t really complain, ” he states.
This feeling of satisfaction can also be read on the faces of the Fulani breeders who have taken up residence around the Léopold Sédar Senghor Stadium. Fewer than usual, these men, recognisable through their attire and their sticks placed between their shoulders, claim to be doing well despite the current context of the coronavirus.
“People are coming little by little. And if they continue at this rate, I hope to be able to sell all my sheep ”, confides the young Oumar Hanne, from Podor (north).
Even if “customers are moving slowly”, Abou Diallo, like Oumar Hanne, thinks he can sell all the heads he has conveyed from Ourossogui (north).
To curb the circulation of the coronavirus through imported cases, the State of Senegal had decided to close all its borders, those on land included. Even if this measure does not concern sheep imports, it has made it difficult for Malian and Mauritanian breeders to travel, who usually supply the Senegalese market.
Likewise, a number of Senegalese who imported cattle from these neighboring countries did not make the trip for various reasons, including the high cost of transport.
Thus, several places in Dakar, formerly transformed into sheep markets during this period, are deserted. Are we heading towards a shortage of the animal so prized by the Senegalese? The Minister of Livestock and Animal Productions, Samba Ndiobène Kâ, replied in the negative.
Visiting last Saturday in some sheep sales outlets as part of the Tabaski 2020 operation, Ka said he was “very satisfied” with the market situation where he noted “a surplus of more than one thousand heads, unlike last year during the same period ”.
The Minister also invited the Senegalese to take all necessary measures to get their sheep on time and avoid last-minute gatherings and jostling.
Breeder Cheikh Ndiaye thinks these statements from the Minister are at the origin of the increase in prices.
“As the first person in charge of the sector, he should not have made these remarks”, he criticises before wondering: “If a Thiogghal (sheep from extensive breeding) cannot cost less than 100,000 FCfa, at how much should we sell our sheep for, whose breeding costs a fortune? “
At the point of sale located near the Léopold Sédar Senghor Stadium, people wishing to buy a beast are visible everywhere. Cheikh Diop is on his second visit. The first having ended in failure, the young man has little hope for the second.
“A small ram that normally costs 75,000 or even 80,000 CFA francs is sold for 125,000 CFA francs or more. At this rate, a lot of people like me may not sacrifice a sheep, ” he says, scowling.
“The sellers should have taken into account the pandemic situation to review their prices. But they don’t. People have no money. Everyone is experiencing the crisis, ” he continued, before hurrying to another enclosure to try to find an animal.
“The prices are really expensive. Even with 100,000 CFA francs, we cannot manage to have a sheep. Whereas in previous years, with less than that amount, we could have enough to spend on a good party, ” laments Ahmed Thiam, accompanied by his mother.
Breeder Harouna Deddi Sow thinks the prices make sense. According to him, everything depends on the price of products intended for animal feed.
“As you can see, these sheep are well fed and well cared for. And that comes at a cost. Obviously, we have to be able to at least amortize our investments, if not to make profit,” he says, from his fifty-five years of experience in the sector.