Easter is one of Ethiopia’s famous holidays, celebrated with food and festivities after 55 days of the fasting season. The cattle market during this season booms as the number of people who visit the area increases, but this holiday, people are being forced to consider other options because of a price increase in cattle caused by the recent drought which killed many animals, FASIKA TADESSE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER reports,
Endalkachew Kebede, a broker residing at Addisu Gebeya, was at Shegole Livestock Market Centre on the afternoon of April 12, 2017, Shegole to assess the price of oxen for the Easter holiday. He is going to share it with his neighbours for Kircha, the process of dividing a butchered animal between a large group of people.
After looking at the market he will go back to his neighbours to decide how many people will be included in the Kircha group and how much money each of them has to contribute.
After approaching most of the cattle traders in the Shegole compound, Endalkachew realized that he is going to have a different discussion with his neighbors.
“This time our discussion will be on the price,” he said.
During Christmas holiday last year they bought reasonable sized cattle for 9,000 Br and divided it into 10 parts, each paying 1,100 Br, covering all the expenses spent for the Kircha process including the brokers’, transportation and butcher fees.
What he realized after dealing with the traders at Shegole, was that he and his neighbours would have to pay at least 12,000 Br to buy an ox of similar size as the one they bought last year.
“This is a surprise for me as our budget is 10,000 Br, considering a reasonable price increment,” said Endalkachew. He added that he would prefer to have only doro wot, a traditional chicken stew common on Ethiopian holidays, especially Easter.
“But my family will be disappointed if I do not take part in Kircha because we have been doing it for many years,” he said.
For this holiday Endalkachew estimates the cost he would incur to buy one tenth of the meat would be 1,500 Br after all the costs are accounted for, which he believes is very inflated.
It is not only Endalkachew who has noticed the price increase in oxen. Cattle traders at Shegole also witnessed this year’s price increase.
“This holiday’s price increment is special,” said Tesfaye Demisse, a 77 year-old cattle trader. Tesfaye is one of 116 individuals who are registered and licensed to trade cattle at the market center, which was established over a decade ago.
Shegole is one of the livestock markets recognized by the Addis Ababa Trade Bureau along with Bircheko (in Kolfe Keranio District), Qera (in Kirkos District), Kara Allo (in Yeka District) and Aqaqi (in Aqaqi Qality District).
Tesfaye spent 52 years trading cattle, buying from different areas including Sendafa in Oromia Regional State and Jirru in North Shoa.
During last year’s Easter holiday he brought 40 cattle to the market. But now he has cut the number to 30, mostly due to capital restrains. He claims that he spent the same amount of money to buy 30 cattle this year, as he did to buy 40 cattle last year.
“In most of the areas which are our suppliers, there is a drought,” said Dawit Abebe, another prominent cattle trader at Shegole. “The price increment this time is forced by a shortage of supply.”
Oxen at Shegole originate from Jirru, Harar, Jimma, Gondar, Wolayita, Nothern Shoa and Adama. For this holiday they are expecting to receive up to 2,000 cattle, just as they have in previous years, according to Tegenu Tolossa, administrator of Shegole.
“But I have a fear that this number will decline in the coming days because of the supply shortage,” said Tegenu.
The cattle supply also declined at Qera, the other well-known market in the city. The animals were scattered around the compound of the marketplace, unlike previous years, when the whole compound was filled with livestock. Some of the oxen even appeared weak and sickly.
With close to 56 million cattle, Ethiopia is among the top 10 nations globally in terms of its livestock population. But, according to Oxfam, over 500,000 cattle died last year as a result of a drought caused mainly by the El Nino effect.
“We cremated 15 cattle that died in the compound since Monday,” said Tadesse Muleta, coordinator at Qera Livestock Market.
To make things worse, there is no water supply in the market, leading many cattle to die, according to the traders at Qera.
Currently there are 350 licensed cattle traders who work at Qera, which was established in 1956. On normal days (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) up to 500 cattle are traded, but for holidays, the number goes up to 1,500.
The animals which come from the SNNP and Oromia regional states are ravenous because of the drought. Because of the shortage of water and animal feed in the market they are dying, according to Tadesse.
At both Shegole and Qera, cattle are sorted into three levels based on their size and price. The price of the highest level of cattle this Easter ranges between 30,000 Br and 45,000 Br. The second level ranges between 19,000 Br and 29,000 Br. The third level includes prices between 12,000 Br and 18,000 Br.
“It is unthinkable to buy cattle with less than 12,000 Br,” said Siyoum Shenkute, member of Simeneh & Belay Eskinder Association, which works on security in the area. He works as a middleman, negotiating with buyers on behalf of traders.
At both markets, cattle from Wolyita, Arsi, Bonga, Borena and Kibre Mengist were not available unlike previous years.
The price of oxen at Qera and Shegole showed an increment ranging from 2,000 Br to 3,000 Br.
Unlike the oxen market, the sheep and goat market seem stable this holiday, showing a very small price increase during this holiday.
Out of the five livestock markets recognized by the Addis Abeba City Trade Bureau Bircheko is the only one that is legalized for sheep and goat trading, while the remaining four are designated for trading cattle.
But at different places in the city, there are permanent and temporary sheep and goat markets. One of the permanent trading places is on the bare land which is located next to Shegole cattle market. There is also a permanent market around Qera designated for sheep and goats.
There are about six main gates where livestock come into Addis Abeba from different parts of the country.
These gates are Kolfe Qeranio, Gefersa, Entoto and Gulelle, Kotebe, Akaki and Alem Gena.
At Shegole, sheep are sold between 1,200 Br and 4,000 Br depending on their size, which is the same as Qera. But at Qera, goats are sold for up to 6,000 Br while at Shegole the highest price for a goat is 4,500 Br. The list price for goats at both markets is 1,500 Br.
“The price of goats has been soaring recently following the increasing demand from hotels which serve raw goat meat,” said Mesqelu Gebre, a goat trader at Shegole.
The price increase in goats and sheep is not the same as cattle, but it has gone up by 300 Br to 500 Br, according to traders at Qera and Shegole. This price increment is seen mainly in the smaller animals.
In both markets sheep are brought from Debre Berhan, Jimma, Wolyita Sodo, Arsi and Gondor. But the goats come only from Harar.
The drought-caused death of the cattle was a concern for the country. A month ago, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stated in his half year report to Parliament, that the government is extensively working on planting animal feed in Oromia and SNNP regional states to tackle the current animal deaths in the area.
“With all these factors, this price surge may not stop,” speculates Seyoum of Qera. “Rather it will even increase on the eve of the holiday.”
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