In previous years, government statistics say that Ramadan alone typically accounts for 40% of annual meat consumption in the kingdom. The Saudi market usually consumes around 7.8 million head of cattle a year, including the Hajj and Ramadan periods, with meat consumption in the month of Ramadan alone amounting to 3 million head.
Director of the Agriculture Ministry’s office in the Mecca region, Mohamed Sankouf, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Veterinary teams from the ministry are responsible for inspecting cattle and monitoring them from the moment they arrive at Jeddah Islamic Port. It is a precautionary measure to insure the cattle is not infected with any contagious disease.”
Sankouf added: “Inspections start early at three quarantine facilities in Djibouti, Somalia, and Sudan, and cattle is not allowed into Saudi Arabia unless they are given certificates proving they are clear of any epidemic diseases.” The veterinary teams then further inspect the cattle upon arrival and quarantine them in especially equipped units in Jeddah if they found any health problems.
The ministry official estimated the number of cattle which will be imported this year to be between 8.5 and 9 million head, with the Islamic Development Bank–a government organization that funds the purchase of sheep for the Hajj–acquiring some 50% of that total.
Regulators say they will take all necessary measures to uncover violations such as raising prices with the approach of the busy month of Ramadan. Complaints are accepted via direct calls to the Trade Ministry offices in all Saudi cities.
Director—General of abattoirs at the Jeddah Municipality, Nasser Al-Jarallah, said his department was monitoring all cattle pens within the cattle markets.
He added that cattle were inspected during slaughter, and emphasized that if there were any suspicions, whole areas were isolated and inspected in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture office in the Mecca region, in order to identify the problem and if it was contagious.
Jarallah added: “Jeddah Municipality does not monitor prices directly, but it takes the initiative to resolve any conflict. If a complaint was received from a consumer, the municipality staff would talk to the trader to encourage them to adhere to market prices.”
He pointed out that the municipality had discovered a number of violations inside and outside the market, including violations of residence visas by workers, and the sale of cattle from unknown sources. All cases are promptly dealt with by police, Jarallah said.