With the countdown to the Eid Al-Adha well underway, families across Egypt are preparing to buy animals such as sheep, camels and cows to slaughter to commemorate the sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim.
With prices of cattle seeing a 15 to 25 per cent increase this year, according to butchers who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly, more and more people are abandoning their life-long tradition.
“It is a trend that has been with us over recent years, and it has been getting more and more present as prices rise. The recent price hikes make meeting day-to-day expenses a battle,” commented Ramadan Ahmed, a butcher in the Cairo district of Zeitoun.
A kilogram of slaughtered meat now costs between LE140 and LE180 compared to LE100 and LE130 last year.
Escalating prices have been a concern for many Egyptian households since the floatation of the pound in November 2016.
Recent increases in fuel, electricity, water and transport bills have stripped family budgets of extras that could be used to celebrate the Eid.
Representing a large segment of middle-class families, Noha Abdel-Razek, an engineer, said that for her family buying a sacrifice for the Eid this year was not on the table.
“Our expenses have increased by at least 30 per cent this year. We can hardly pay for school year that starts next month. Thank God the sacrifice is not obligatory in Islam,” she said.
“I live in a big building containing more than 25 families. The number of sheep, cows and goats that residents buy and leave me to look after before they are slaughtered on the first day of the Eid has become smaller and smaller over the past three years,” said Um Rabie, the wife of a building supervisor in Heliopolis.
Um Rabie said that no one in her building had bought cows this year, compared to three or four in previous years, and there were fewer sheep and only a handful of the less-expensive goats.
The increase in the prices of meat and cattle is also being translated into a hike in the prices of sacrifice vouchers. These are offered by charities authorised to buy, slaughter and distribute sacrificed meat to the thousands of needy people on their databases.
A sacrifice voucher from the charity Misr Al-Kheir costs LE3,300 this year compared to LE2,900 last year. However, the number of kg of meat that each voucher buys has increased from 23 to 27. One third of this is given to the buyer, while the rest is distributed for charity.
Abdel-Aziz Ahmed, head of development at the Orman charity, said his organisation was offering three kinds of vouchers this year, one for imported cows at LE1,950, one for smaller local cows at LE2,550, and one for larger local cows at LE3,100.
All three have seen an increase over last year’s prices by 27.5 per cent, 45 per cent and 42.4 per cent, respectively.
Every year during the Eid attempts are made to moderate meat prices, and the government typically imports frozen meat as well as live animals.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Supply also offer subsidised cattle for slaughter, including both local and imported cattle.
Egypt produces between 70 and 75 per cent of its needs for meat each year, or about eight million animals. It imports the rest of its needs for meat from Australia, Brazil, India, Sudan and Somalia.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 August 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Nothing to sacrifice?