Herat officials have said that a huge number of sheep is being smuggled in to neighboring countries on a daily basis – a practice that is affecting livestock and meat prices in the western province.
Sheep smuggling from Herat has increased dramatically since spring this year, officials said. Smugglers reportedly transfer sheep to the southern parts of the province and load them on to vehicles at night and then drive them out of the country.
Mullah Mohammad, who transports sheep for a farmer said: “The owner of this herd directs me through phone calls to transfer his sheep out of Herat city. Then he comes and takes the herd,” he said.
Head of Herat Agriculture Directorate, Faqir Ahmad, said sheep smuggling has become a problem and is affecting the livestock industry in the province.
He said the livelihoods of thousands of families in the province is dependent on livestock and this new phenomenon is creating enormous problems for them.
Ahmad said several individuals have been arrested on charges of sheep smuggling but the illegal trafficking continues.
“Think of the huge amount: 1,000 sheep on a daily basis and 30,000 monthly. This illegal trend seriously affects meat prices in Herat markets and affects families lives as well,” he said.
According to Afghanistan’s laws, live animals are not allowed to be exported. But the smugglers are reportedly assisted by officials at police checkpoints to get their livestock out of the country, some locals said.
Herat police chief Gen. Abdul Hamid Rozi has confirmed the smuggling problem and said: “The roads which are connected to Iran are under our control. According to my information, the sheep are herded on foot out of the city, and then they are taken [by vehicle] out of the country,” said Rozi.
In addition, a number of reports say the smugglers receive buffalos and donkeys in exchange for sheep from Iran and Pakistan.
Lamb was however always smuggled from Herat slaughter houses to Iran – over the past 40 years – but following the closure of these plants the smuggling of live sheep has increased dramatically.