How are Egyptians responding to skyrocketing meat prices?

Aya Salah , Tuesday 16 May 2023

Six weeks ahead of the feast holiday of Eid Al-Adha, Egypt is currently witnessing record-high meat prices, reaching EGP 400 per kilogram (nearly $13) in some neighbourhoods.

Butcher shop
Butcher shop in Cairo's Ramses Square. Ahram Online


The unprecedented prices has left everyone – from clients, chamber of commerce officials, to butchers – complaining.

Ahram Online surveyed the market and found prices ranging from EGP 270 for imported meat to EGP 340 for fresh meat in middle-class districts to more than EGP 400 in upper-class neighborhoods and some hypermarkets.

In Egypt, “meat” refers to red meat – beef, lamb and goat – and excludes poultry.

Head of the Butchers Division at Cairo Chamber of Commerce Mohamed Wahba attributed last Friday the soaring prices of meat to the low supply and the high cost of importing fodder.

He called for increasing the quantities of imported meat during the coming period, in order to control prices.

However, in a phone-in with presenter Amr Adib on MBC Masr channel, Wahba said: “Due to time constraints, we will not be able to do anything before Eid to contain the rise in meat prices.”

He called for price controls, saying “if the situation continues like this, we will face a crisis.”

Egypt’s livestock breeders rely mainly on imported high-cost cultivated or manufactured feed.

Moreover, local production of red meat, which used to cover about 60 percent of the country’s needs, has recently declined to 40 percent, according to vice president of the Butchers Division Haitham Abdel-Basset.

During a phone-in with Sada El-Balad satelite channel on Sunday, Abdel-Basset attributed this decline to a number of factors, including the fact that “30 percent of butchers have left the business, in addition to 70 percent of farmers who have given up livestock farming.”

The meat market is stagnating and buying and selling has declined due to the high prices and weak purchasing power of citizens, Wahba said.

Abdel-Basset agrees, saying that the “market has seen a decrease in purchasing power by 60 percent.”

According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt's consumer price index (CPI) inched up 1.8 percent in April, down from 3.2 percent in March and 7.1 percent in February.

Prices of food and beverages surged by 53.8 percent in April on an annual basis, the CAPMAS said.

Gauging consumer demand

Abo Omar, a butcher shop owner in Mokattam district in Cairo, says the turnout is not really going well. 

“We used to sell one and a half calves per week, now it is only a quarter per week,” a disappointed Abo Omar told Ahram Online.

A photo showing Abo Omar's butcher shop 

Currently, the most demanded meat in Abo Omar’s shop is liver which is priced at EGP 360 per kilogram.

As for the price of Kanduz meat (calves over one year old) ranges from EGP 350 to EGP 360 based on the meat cut, he said.

Comparing the current prices to those from last year’s Eid Al-Adha, Abo Omar says that the prices for goats and calves have drastically changed.

During Eid Al-Adha, which is one of the two major annual Islamic feasts, Muslims slaughter cows, sheep and goats to feed their families and donate to the poor, marking Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, on God's command.

“The [average] price of a goat was EGP 4,500 [$145] and now it has reached EGP 9,000 ($290) and more. As for calves, it ranges from EGP 65,000 [$2,100] to EGP 120,000 [$3,880] up from EGP 65,000 last year,” Abo Omar explained. 

He attributes this price increase to two factors: the shortage of livestock fodder and the slaughtering of female calves, which are more expensive than their male counterparts.

Elsewhere in El-Matariya, a lower middle-class district, in an attempt to overcome the recession and attract customers, the El-Gomhoriya butcher shop is offering promotional offers to get customers to buy larger quantities.

They are offering four kilos of premium meat for EGP 1,400 instead of 1,520, while four kilos of medium quality meat are being offered for EGP 1,150 instead of EGP 1,280.

Customer response

Egyptians are struggling to afford meat as prices surge, leading many to reduce the quantities they are purchasing.

“We reduced the quantity of meat I consume, and therefore reduced the number of times we eat meat per week,” Ashraf, a 50-year-old employee, told Ahram Online. 

Sobhi, who is retired, says: “I allocate a fixed budget for meat and deduct it from my monthly pension. So, according to the prices, I buy the same value of meat, but less of it.”

There have been some calls on social media to boycott meat, in order to punish what they see as price gouging.

However, such a boycott is difficult, says Mohamed Mahmoud, a father of three children.

“Meat cannot be completely avoided due to the importance of animal protein for children's growth and nutrition, but we opt to reduce quantity we purchase and compensate with other types of protein such as plant protein," Mahmoud explained. 

Manal, a housewife, wonders why there is a significant difference in prices from place to place, and is demanding regulation.

“The Aman outlet [which is affiliated with the Ministry of Interior] has meat priced at EGP 270, while the butcher in front of my house sells it for EGP 360,” Manal said.

The meat industry has been negatively affected by foreign currency shortages and the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, which caused crucial inputs like fodder to accumulate in ports.

However, the country is working to release fodder stuck in ports.

On Monday, the Minister of Agriculture announced in a statement the release of the largest quantity of fodder in a single batch, 308,000 tons of corn and soybeans worth approximately $134 million.

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