(ERGO) – Somali farmers and exporters have started selling local agricultural produce to a new market in Turkey, with the first exports of lemons and sesame recently shipped from Mogadishu.
Bashiir Abdirabbi Hassan heads a Somali company that has started exporting lemons. He says the new trade route with Turkey is a golden opportunity to boost the Somali economy, especially as some other markets have shrunk.
His company sources the lemons from farmers in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, and Hiran regions and has exported 1,600 bags of lemon to Turkey since January.
“Initially, we used to export farm products to UAE, but for the last for four seasons, the UAE market has not been doing well,” Hassan told Radio Ergo. “Now we have started this new route. Turkish demand is better, and we have made good progress.”
Hassan aims to export 25 tons of lemon a year depending on the demand.
“The companies contact us for the order then we organise and ship the cargo to Turkey. On their side they send the money via money transfer companies,” he said.
Faduma Ali Hussein, a farmer in Mahaday town, Lower Shabelle, exported 150 bags of dried lemons to Turkey this month, after seizing on the new market opening.
She invested $80,000 in lemon trees on her 25-hectare farm two years ago but failed to find a market for the lemons she harvested. She took the initiative to dry and store the fruit.
“I have exported all my dried lemons to Turkey, and I appreciate this new trade channel. I exported the lemons that I had been keeping in a store for the last two years,” she said.
Several companies including Hassan’s have invested in lemon farmers in these three southern regions.
Abdullahi Ahmeday Qasim, a farmer in Jambalul village just outside Afgooye town, received an investment loan of$6,000 from export traders to grow lemons.
He told Radio Ergo that he hopes his farm and business will recover after two poor years.
“The traders give us loans which help us to double production. In case the harvest drops unexpectedly, they will extend the loan repayments for us to overcome the challenges,” he said.
Somalia’s trade deal with Turkey signed in 2018 covers a wide range of farm products. Mumin Group, based in Mogadishu, has exported 84 tons of sesame to Turkey since January.
Abdiweli Abdullahi Mumin, a company official, told Radio Ergo they had exported $126,000 worth of sesame.
“The market for sesame has not been good in Somalia and that led many farmers to stop planting it, but production is now increasing since this new market was opened,” he said.
According to Mumin, the company expects to export 28,000 tons of sesame this year.
Radio Ergo made attempts to contact sesame farmers, most of whom live in Al-Shabaab controlled areas, but these have not yet been successful.