Refusing to be cowed, Somali opens country’s first dairy
But Abdulkadir Mohamed Salad, 40, who spent most of his life as a refugee in Britain where he worked for a dairy, is convinced the business can work in his home country, where cattle abound yet tonnes of powdered milk are imported every year.
“It is very difficult to invest in a hostile environment like Somalia in the first place and secondly, people here know very little about the dairy business,” Salad told AFP at his small factory, where a stainless steel machine pumped milk into blue sachets.
As a result of unsanitary handling of milk in the past, many in the country believe that cow’s milk is dangerous for their health and prefer to drink camel milk or powdered milk.
He worked as a taxi driver before getting a job at a dairy in Leicester. His wife and three children remained behind in the United Kingdom as he returned to try and start a business in his home country.
Surprised by the amount of cattle in the country, and the fact that aside from a few farmers selling raw, untreated milk, there was no proper factory treating the product, he and two colleagues decided to set up their own, called Irman Dairy, in 2017.
“Livestock is one of the economic resources of Somalia … but tonnes of powdered milk are imported every year while our resources are wasted here, and few are benefiting,” said Salad.
A worker looks into a tank at the Irman milk factory in the outskirts of Mogadishu. The milk factory startup that was established by some local businessmen in Somalia for the first time in 27 years to restore quality of the country’s cows dairy milk products and cover the needs of their community. AFP PHOTO | MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB
“There are days when we don’t start the factory because of the security situation in town, this affects our business since we have staff and need to pay their salaries and other administration costs,” said Salad.
“The production capacity of our factory is 10,000 litres per day, but we can only produce 2,000 litres a day currently because of constraints, including the lack of a market,” he said.
“We are very lucky that we got the solar system to run the factory now, otherwise we could have closed it down because energy is big issue here,” said Salad.
“But for the past few months I have been using the milk produced by Irman Dairy and I really like it, now my whole family has grown to like it.”
“We used to sell milk from various brands imported from outside the country but now we also have Irman Dairy produced locally, the number of people who are interested is also increasing,” he said.
Despite being one of the most dangerous capitals in the world, new businesses have been popping up all over Mogadishu in recent years with both local traders and members of the diaspora opening supermarkets and small factories.
“The government needs to encourage local production otherwise there will not be local investors like the Irman Dairy, my family is now using this fresh milk which I know is coming from our local cows,” said Omar Ahmed, a Somali politician.