After the conflict in Sudan broke out in April, Minister of Supply Ali Moselhi said that it would not affect Egypt’s meat imports and that talks were underway on ensuring the shipments of the quantities on order.
However, he added that there were concerns regarding supply should the conflict drag on. Accordingly, the government was currently studying the possibility of importing meat from Chad or Somalia. “We need to diversify the sources of our meat imports from abroad,” he said.
According to Mahmoud Al-Askalani, chairman of the Association of Citizens Against Price Increases, a NGO, 70 per cent of Egypt’s meat imports, both live and frozen, come from Sudan. Since the crisis in Sudan began, the price of a kg of meat has risen from LE300 to LE350, he said.
“If action is not taken quickly to solve this problem, the price could jump to LE500,” he warned.
Haitham Abdel-Basset, deputy chairman of the Meat Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, shares the concern and stressed that the division has long called for the development of domestic livestock and fodder production in order to reduce the dependency on imports and strengthen the country’s resilience to external shocks.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) recently reported that in March the prices of meat and poultry rose 91.5 per cent over the same month last year and that they had climbed five per cent since February.
Abdel-Basset urged agricultural experts to work in concert to find ways to increase the domestic production of fodder and livestock in order to close the gap between production and demand, cut down on imports, and mitigate the impacts of outside shocks on the local market.
“No sooner did the crisis in Sudan erupt than meat prices in Egypt shot up, and the cost of fresh meat from Sudan climbed from LE180 to LE200,” he said. “The government needs to intervene in order to regulate the profit margin for traders and importers, so consumers do not become victims.”
Sudan is Egypt’s number one meat supplier. In 2022, Egypt’s imports of beef and water buffalo came to $1.622 billion, down from $1.639 billion in 2021.
Sayed Al-Nawawi, a member of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce and a meat importer, attributes the rising price of meat in the domestic market to the increase in the pound-dollar exchange rate. This has affected the cost of fodder and the cost of meat by the time it reaches consumers.
He agreed that the crisis in Sudan had made it necessary to explore alternative sources for importing meat, such as Chad, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti. But Sudan still had the competitive edge on lower transportation and shipping costs.
The Minister of Supply agreed that Sudan was Egypt’s most important source of imported meat, “but the crisis it is going through now has forced us to search for alternative sources to import cattle and meat,” he said.
MP Karim Talaat Al-Sadat, a member of the parliament’s housing committee, petitioned for a briefing from Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and Minister of Supply Ali Moselhi as to whether the government had a plan to realise self-sufficiency in meat and alternatives to Sudan as a supplier in the light of the current conflict.
Al-Sadat noted Sudan’s importance as the most important supplier of red meat to Egypt and expressed his concern over how the crisis in Sudan would affect supply in Egyptian markets.
He stressed the need to explore alternatives, such as Somalia and Chad and to diversify the sources of meat imports in general, given how the impact of the Sudanese crisis on that country’s meat exports could drive up prices in Egypt.
He urged the government to step up inspections of markets and butchers in order to curb any exploitation of the crisis on the part of greedy merchants. He also called on the government to offer more quantities of meat at reduced prices in Ministry of Supply outlets around the country.
According to the CAPMAS, bilateral trade between Egypt and Sudan rose by 18.2 per cent in 2022, to reach $1.434 billion, up from $1.212 billion in 2021. Egypt imported more than $1 billion worth of meat and live cows and buffaloes from Sudan in the first half of 2022.
Egypt’s red meat imports during that period came to $1.084 billion, up 52.6 per cent from $645.14 million in the first half of 2021.
A version of this article appears in print in the 11 May, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.