Egypt's livestock market stagnates amid soaring inflation and economic woes

High prices and reduced subsidies dampen the spirit of the approaching Eid Al Adha

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Egypt’s livestock market, which typically witnesses a surge in sales leading up to Eid Al Adha, is markedly stagnant this year as the country struggles with record high inflation.

The main ritual of the four-day Muslim celebration is the sacrifice of livestock, whose meat is then distributed to the poor.

“Sales are low this year. Even when compared to last year, the drop is significant,” says Mohamed El Sabaawi, a livestock seller in Cairo. “We come to the market with 20 cows and end up selling three of four.”

This year, meat and livestock prices rose by over 15 per cent compared to last year.

Though not as large of an increase as the one between 2022 and 2023 when they nearly tripled, prices remain largely above the reach of millions of Egyptians, whose incomes have not increased to account for the large rise in costs of living since 2022.

Butchers in Cairo’s upper-class neighbourhoods told The National that their sales are significantly lower this year.

“Wealthy clients who used to buy four or five kilos per purchase now take one or two,” says Mohamed El Sayed, 61, a butcher in the Cairo district of Heliopolis.

Mr El Sayed explains that this year, there has also been a decline in the number of families having animals sacrificed to feed the poor.

“People are having to pay more for everything now. Bread, fuel, electricity, water, phone bills, school fees and transportation. When people are so strained financially, they aren’t in the spirit of giving,” Mr El Sayed explains.

In stores, beef prices rose from about 360 Egyptian pounds a kilo last year to 420 a kilo for the best quality cuts. However, lower quality cuts can be found at some markets at about 380 pounds, up from about 290 last year.

Sheep meat prices rose by a similar amount this year, from 380 Egyptian pounds to 470 Egyptian pounds.

Egypt’s inflation rate remains at triple what it was in early 2022, recording just over 32 per cent in April, according to Egypt’s statistics agency, Capmas.

Four devaluations of the local currency have cut its value by more than 70 per cent since March 2022 which has severely reduced the populace’s purchasing power and the values of their savings.

The cost of living crisis affecting millions of Egyptians has been exacerbated by successive reductions in state subsidies on fuel, essential food and electricity this year.

In a bid to offset high prices of meat and livestock, the country’s agriculture ministry is offering discounted meat at 11 outlets in Cairo, where discounts of up to 50 per cent are offered, according to a Tuesday statement.

The outlets have a 15kg limit for each citizen and the initiative aims to “offset merchants’ agreed”, according to the statement.

Eid Al Adha will be observed in Cairo on June 15.

Updated: June 06, 2024, 3:43 AM