Egypt: Economic Vegetarians

Red meat prices have risen dramatically in Egypt in recent weeks. Whether or not it's related to the current state of the global economy, it clear that many Egyptians are being pushed towards vegetarianism due to the high prices. Lately, there have even been calls by citizens to boycott meat in hopes that such activity may help lower prices.

Meat market near Ataba, Egypt - by Furibond on Flickr

Meat market near Ataba, Egypt – by Furibond on Flickr

Masr Al Youm reported the news in his blog [Ar] on April 15.

تبدأ جمعيات حماية المستهلك، اليوم، إطلاق حملتها لمقاطعة استهلاك اللحوم فى القاهرة وجميع المحافظات، احتجاجاً على ارتفاع أسعار اللحوم البلدية.
The Consumer Protection Association will start a meat boycott campaign today in Cairo and all the other Egyptian provinces. This campaign is meant to show protest and disagreement with the high prices of meat.

Weekite then wrote [Ar] about how red meat prices have fluctuated during the past few years.

الطريقة اللي بيشتغل بيها السوق
إنك لما تلاقي السعر مش مناسب ليك
إنك تقلل من الاستهلاك شوية
طبعاً احنا كل ما يزيد سعر اللحمة نشتري برده عادي
لحد ما كيلو اللحمة وصل
30 جنيه
وبعدين 40
قلنا لأ بأه
مش ممكن يزيد عن كده
بأه 60
وبعدين 70
سبعين جنيه كيلو اللحمة ولا مؤاخذة؟
The way markets work, when the prices of some goods become higher, you just stop or reduce the quantity you buy of it. But here we have continued to purchase meat normally despite of any price changes.

Until it reached 30 EGP per kilogram, then 40 and 50 EGP. Then we started to question if it wads going to get any higher then that, and it continued to increase until it reached 60 then 70 EGP. A kilo for 70 EGP! Why the heck is that!?

He then stated that he is going to boycott meat until the prices go back to normal.

لحد ما السعر ينزل ويرجع للخمسين تاني
من النهاردة مقاطع اللحمة
ولو ولادك في مرحلة النمو
الفراخ موجودة
لو زودوا سعر الفراخ
السمك موجود
لو السمك زاد
اللحمة البرازيلي أم 20 جنيه زي العسل
I will start boycotting meat from today until the price becomes 50 EGP per kilogram again.

If you have children, who need to have proteins in their daily intake, then you can consider chicken as an alternative. And if the chicken prices rise, fish is still there. And if fish prices go higher too, then imported Brazilian meat – at 20 EGP per kilogram – is just fine.

Egypt Today also wrote about the history of meat boycotting campaigns in Egypt [Ar].

فقبل ما يزيد على ثلاثة عقود، وتحديداً في العام 1977 هاج المصريون وماجوا وخرجوا في تظاهرات صاخبة سموها «تظاهرات الخبز» وتعامل معها النظام باعتبارها «انتفاضة الحرامية» منددين بزيادة سعر الكيلو ليتعدى حاجز الجنيه.
الطريف أن تخطي كيلو اللحم حاجز الـ70 جنيهاً في العام العاشر من الألفية الثالثة أدى إلى ما لم يخطر على بال، ألا وهو اتفاق نادر بين الشعب والحكومة في مقاطعته.
هذه المقاطعة التي تعد الأوسع والأكبر منذ قررت مجموعة من سيدات المجتمع الراقي في حي المعادي (جنوب القاهرة) مقاطعة اللحم في أواخر الثمانينات بعدما وصل سعره الى عشرة جنيهات.
وفيما كانت الحملات السابقة قاصرة على مجموعات بعينها من المواطنين، تشمل الحملة الحالية والمقرر لها أن تستمر حتى آخر أبريل الجاري الجميع، بدءاً بالحكومة، ومروراً بالمواطنين، وانتهاء بالبعض في شعبة الجزارين وإن اقتصرت مطالبات الأخيرة على ترشيد استهلاك اللحوم.
ووصل الأمر إلى درجة مناشدة وزير الزراعة أمين أباظة المصريين بالامتناع عن شراء اللحوم، والاتجاه إلى البدائل لمواجهة جشع التجار وأصحاب المزارع الذين أشعلوا الأسعار بلا مبرر.
About 30 years ago, in 1977, Egyptians demonstrated in what were called “Bread Demonstrations”, while the government insisted on calling it “Thief Demonstrations”. Those demonstrations started because the meat prices exceeded one Egyptian pound per kilogram. Isn't it ironic that now in the tenth year of the new millennium meat prices have reached 70 EGP, and both the people and the state have agreed on boycotting it this time.

This boycotting campaign is considered the most effective one since the late eighties when some high-class ladies in El Maadi district – in southern Cairo – called for boycotting meat when prices rose to 10 EGP per kilogram.

In the earlier campaigns only citizens were involved, but this time everyone including the government agreed on participating in the campaign until the end of April. However, butchers associations proposed people should reduce their intake instead of totally boycotting it.

Even the minister of agriculture – Amin Abaza – asked the Egyptian people to stop purchasing meat and to start using other alternatives as a way of fighting the greed of merchants and farm owners.

It seems that the news of the meat boycotting campaign has reached our neighbours in Israel, and the Egyptian blogger Cairo Life Reviews wrote about the Israeli offer to help us solve this issue.

As I was googling the meat boycott in Egypt today, an obscure Jewish blogger brought to my attention an article posted in Palestine Today.

According to Palestine Today and Almasryoon newspaper, Israel has kindly offered to help out with our meat woos by offering to secure a meat export agreement of 150 tons. The Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture has graciously refused! THANK GOD! They also asserted that there is no meat shortage, and they urge consumers to boycott meat to stabilize prices.

She then continued speculating about the Israelis hidden agenda behind such offer.

In the news headline, the Palestinian newspaper wrote that Israeli government is “offering meat to Egyptians free of charge.” Well, free of charge is not the same thing as export. My guess is that Israel would have tried to make a gazillion dollars out of this deal!!! And if the Israeli authorities are so considerate and ready to donate meat, why don't they give it to the starving people in Gaza.

In fact, no one seems to agree for sure what the reason behind the high meat prices are. Some people are blaming the government, while the government is blaming the butchers and merchants, and the butchers and merchants are blaming the economy and the high price of fodder for the whole crisis.

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