Eid Al-Adha in Egypt: Putting meat on the table

Mai Samih , Thursday 29 Jun 2023

Meat prices have been rising sharply in the run-up to the Eid Al-Adha holiday.

Rising prices have impacted charities distributing meat among impoverished families
Rising prices have impacted charities distributing meat among impoverished families

 

In the countdown to the Eid Al-Adha, a feast in which Muslims slaughter sheep or livestock to feed the poor, meat prices have exceeded LE370 per kg, almost double the price of last year. The first day of Eid falls on 28 June.

“I am boycotting meat because of the expensive prices,” commented Sarah, a graphic designer and mother who works from home in Cairo. She cooks other protein alternatives like chicken, fava beans, or lentils instead.

 “When I used to buy meat, I would only buy about a kg, mince it, and then use it when preparing spaghetti bolognaise, for instance, just to give my children the protein they need,” Sarah said. “But now people should stop buying meat until its prices decrease or do without it altogether and seek alternatives,” she added.

The higher prices also mean costlier livestock. Whereas a lamb cost around LE4,000 last year, this year it is selling for around LE9,000.

The rising prices have also impacted charities. The Al-Mosbah Al-Modea Foundation that works throughout the year distributing foodstuffs like sugar, oil, and rice as well as meat to the most vulnerable in society has seen its work impacted.

“Every one to two months, we try through our donors to distribute 1.5 kg of meat to each family we help. However, after the increases in prices, we are struggling to do this regularly. Instead, we give meat to each family every three or four months,” Mohamed Ismail of the foundation told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The foundation benefits more than 1,500 families in several governorates with a special focus on Upper Egypt in the Minya and Beni Sweif governorates and in Cairo.

It offers two types of sukuk odheya (meat vouchers) during the Eid Al-Adha that indicate that meat is distributed to needy families. The first, costing LE7,500, covers meat that is fully distributed to families and is implemented through the foundation’s branches in Minya and Beni Sweif.

The second, costing LE9,000, allows the donor to claim part of the meat and the rest is distributed to poor families. “This year, donors are demanding more of the latter kind of vouchers, so they too can benefit,” Ismail said.

He noted that last year the foundation was able to distribute 56 livestock to 18,000 families in more than 170 villages. However, this year they have only been able to attract funds for 15 livestock because of the financial circumstances of some of the donors.

“The increases in meat prices are a result of the decrease in production,” said member of the Chamber of Commerce and farm owner Ahmed Etabi. The prices of animal feed have skyrocketed due to the depreciation of the Egyptian pound against the dollar, he said, and they have also been affected by higher grain prices due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Both Russia and Ukraine are major producers of wheat and yellow corn, which is an essential ingredient in livestock feed. This has increased the cost of raising livestock for farmers and accordingly has resulted in higher prices of meat for consumers, Etabi said.

A ton of bran that was sold for LE1,000 seven years ago is now sold for LE9,000 to LE10,000, he said.

Another reason behind the increases in meat prices is the limited supply of feed in the market, which has resulted in some farm owners selling their livestock. Etabi estimates that there are 30 per cent fewer livestock than last year, with larger farms having at least 200 heads of livestock now dominating.

Their production is costlier because the large farms require workers who are paid wages every month, while a small farm can rely on family members or others, Etabi said. For example, a litre of milk could cost about LE27 from these farms, while it only costs an average LE21 from smaller farms.

To address the needs of consumers, the state has been importing livestock from Sudan and Brazil to fill the gap between production and consumption, Etabi pointed out. But there are other solutions to the problem aside from importing meat, which costs millions of dollars.

There is also a need to increase domestic livestock production and cultivate more feed locally, he said.

Etabi said that during the Eid Al-Adha millions of livestock will be slaughtered, augmenting the problem. He believes there should be a fatwa (religious edict) to encourage people not to slaughter this year because of the limited number of livestock in the market. Instead, they should distribute money to the needy, he said.

“This will preserve the number of livestock on Egyptian farms until it increases,” he said.

The government has been working on growing the stock of livestock. Last week, a Ministry of Agriculture press release announced that the board of directors of the National Project for Veal, headed by Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Al-Sayed Al-Qusseir, had approved the allocation of LE155 million to around 200 small breeders and fresh university graduates to support their livestock farms.

The project comes within the framework of the presidential Decent Life initiative.

Head of the Livestock and Poultry Sector at the Ministry of Agriculture Tarek Suleiman said the National Project aims at preventing the slaughter of an animal that is less than 100 kg in weight. Instead, it would be raised and fattened until it weighs at least 400 kg with a view to developing the stock of livestock.

The project started in 2017 with LE100 million. Today, the total that has been loaned to small breeders, young people, female breeders, and Decent Life designated villages has reached LE7.7 billion. It has supported more than 42,000 beneficiaries, raising more than 476,000 livestock heads.

As soon as a breeder is given his livestock, they are registered, numbered, and vaccinated. Feed is also provided.

Field follow-ups on the beneficiaries of the project are carried out through the ministry’s Livestock and Poultry Development Sector and the General Authority for Veterinary Services in order to solve any problems that may appear in the early stages, Suleiman said.

Meanwhile, a committee has been formed by cabinet decision to preserve livestock production and to ensure stability in the market. It studies the red meat needs of the market and estimates the size of local production and the size of needed imports, Suleiman said. This planning ensures that people can buy meat all year round, not just during feasts, and caters for all tastes and budgets.

The veal project covers all the governorates in Egypt. Anyone wanting to apply should visit the nearest agricultural directorate or any branch of the National Bank of Egypt or the Agricultural Bank of Egypt, he said.

Moreover, the ministry is monitoring feed released from the ports, making sure that it is not being stored to manipulate prices. Work is underway with research centres like the Desert Research Centre to produce feed that is nutritious and healthier for livestock.

 “We are currently contracting farmers to grow feed in Egypt through a contract system. This guarantees that a farmer will be given a fair price for his crops and supplies livestock breeders with the feed they want at a decent price,” Suleiman said.

Processed agricultural waste is being used to make feed, as this has been scientifically proven to be a source of nutrients. Breeders are being trained on how to use the processed feed and mix feed components together.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 June, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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