Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

No longer for the poor?

High in protein, filling and cheap, fava beans have long been a fixture of Egyptian cuisine, though they are no longer as affordable as they once were, reports Mai Samih

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The price of fuul, or fava beans, a staple food of the country’s poorer classes, has almost tripled since 2005, pushing a kilogramme of raw locally grown fuul to LE13-14.
The price rises have been due to the reduced areas planted with the crop, as farmers have been reluctant to grow the beans which yield less profit than other crops. According to the cereals chamber in the Union of Chambers of Commerce, the area of land cultivated with beans declined from 37,000 acres in 2010 to 17,000 in 2012.
Meanwhile, the increase in the dollar exchange rate to the Egyptian pound has also added to the problem, with the price of imported fuul, mainly from France, Australia and Britain, increasing to almost LE9 per kilogramme.
The volume of imported fuul, whose taste is not so acceptable to Egyptians, comes in at 500,000 tonnes, the equivalent to 70 per cent of annual consumption.
“I used to buy two fuul sandwiches for my breakfast for LE0.5 from street carts a few years ago. Last year the price increased to LE0.75. Today I paid LE1 for the two sandwiches,” said Said Mohamed, the porter of a building in Giza.
“If the prices keep rising this way, we will not be able to afford even fuul anymore,” he said.  
Fadia Abdel-Fattah, a housewife, noted that she cooks fuul at home to save money, but she now depends on the less expensive imported brands even if she has to compromise on flavour. Abdel-Fattah, who has five sons, said her family depended on fuul for their dinner and breakfast meals, costing her some LE10 per day.
The rises in the price of fuul have hit poorer Egyptians hard at a time when the poverty rate in Egypt has escalated to reach 26 per cent. This means that almost 22 million Egyptians live on less than LE3,920 per year, or LE326 per month.
Mohamed Mansi, the import manager of a food industries company, said that a large portion of homegrown fuul was exported. Meanwhile, many merchants had resorted to importing cheaper fuul from the UK and Australia to cover customers’ needs.
“The wholesale price of imported fuul comes in at LE3.3-LE4, compared to LE5-6.5 for locally cultivated fuul,” he said.
The high price of Egyptian fuul stems from the long process it goes through before it reaches the consumer. First, merchants buy the green crop from farmers at an unpredictable profit margin. Then, there is the cost of drying the foul, which could be done for free, but in most cases is charged for.
There are also the costs of transportation and storage.
The problems do not end there as cooked fuul vendors have their own problems.
Reda Al-Menshawi, who has a downtown shop selling fuul and falafel, said that a plate of fuul did not bring him any profit as the cost of raw fuul alone was LE5,000 per month.  
The complements of a plate of fuul were also expensive, Al-Menshawi said, who added that a litre of cooking oil cost LE12-14, of tahini (sesame paste) LE24, and a kilogramme of lemon was LE8.
Al-Menshawi said that he had tried buying from farmers directly in an effort to cut costs, but that this had not made much difference to his bottom line.
The scarcity of butane gas cylinders and the consequential increase in prices had added to his woes. He now bought three gas cylinders per day for LE60 each, compared to LE20 some months ago, he said.
Another fuul vendor who sells his product in Giza said he depended on imported fuul which cost only LE5 per kilogramme and thus enabled him to make a better profit.  
“In all cases the return is eaten up by inflation, salaries and rent, however,” he said.
“The government should see to it that there is more homegrown fuul if we are to see prices go down and to cover our needs. In addition, they should crackdown on greedy merchants who import fuul and manipulate prices to fill their own pockets,” he said.

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