Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1260, (27 August - 2 September 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

A boycott of meat?

Calls to boycott meat seem to have reached everywhere in Egypt, reports Ahmed Kotb

Al-Ahram Weekly

A social media campaign that started in Aswan last week to urge people to stop buying meat has gained supporters from governorates across Egypt with the aim of forcing traders to lower their prices.

The prices of meat have significantly increased over the last few weeks to reach more than LE100 per kg of local beef, up from around LE80. This “unjustified increase”, according to activists, must be met by a boycott to force traders to lower their prices to avoid loss of sales and spoiled stocks of meat.

The cost of meat varies from one governorate to another due to factors like transportation fees and the type of neighbourhood. However, prices have increased all around the country for no clear reason.

A kilogram of local beef is priced at between LE75 and LE110 depending on where it is sold, with the gap being cited as evidence of uncontrolled and random pricing.

Egyptian celebrities and public figures have shown their support for the one-month campaign, organised under the title “forget about meat,” and it has also been welcomed by the Ministry of Supply and the Consumer Protection Agency.

Many governorates, including Aswan, Luxor, Minya, Suez, Alexandria, Giza and Cairo, have seen people holding signs on the streets to encourage consumers to stop purchasing meat. Some have attached posters to buildings for the same reason.

“It appears to be working,” said Hossam Ahmed, a resident of Minya. The cost of a kilo of local beef in Minya was down by an average of LE5 compared to last week’s prices, he said. However, he added that it was still overpriced at LE75 and would need to go down to LE65 before the boycott ended.

Butchers blame the recent price hikes on cattle breeders who have increased their prices for slaughterhouses where butchers buy red meat. “Many consumers believe that we are responsible for every price increase, but we are not the ones to blame,” said Fadi Al-Gammal, a butcher in Cairo’s Zamalek district who has seen a falling number of customers as a result of the boycott campaign.

Zamalek is an upper-class neighbourhood where a kilo of local beef is currently priced at around LE100, down from LE110 last week. “I had to bring the price down by LE5 to LE10 in order to sell my products before they would spoil with prolonged storage,” Al-Gammal said.

“The boycott is having no effect on most places,” said Mohamed Wahba, head of the Butchers Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, who added that the fewer consumers were mainly due to more expensive meat products.

Wahba lamented the boycott against the consumption of local beef, claiming it was targeting “the destruction of the domestic meat industry”.

Local beef was more expensive than imported beef because of higher breeding costs and the costs of proper veterinary care. “These two reasons will lead to the extinction of local meat within 10 years if they are not tackled as soon as possible,” Wahba said.

Large quantities of imported meat are available in government consumer outlets at much lower cost. A kilo of Brazilian meat costs LE50, and Ethiopian and Sudanese meat costs LE50 to LE60.

However, many consumers, especially those in the higher social classes, prefer not to buy imported meat, believing it to be of poor quality. Imported meat covers about 65 per cent of domestic demand, while local beef covers only 35 per cent.

Many believe the boycott campaign will not bring prices down in the longer term because millions of Muslims are getting ready for Eid Al-Adha feast, or the feast of sacrifice, next month when there is increased demand for meat.

This means traders are confident that consumers will want to buy meat whatever the prices charged for it. There are no plans for the boycott campaign to be extended beyond the feast.

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