The widespread unrest the nation is currently experiencing in both the Amhara and Oromia regions is threatening the festive feasts of many. Both the purchase and transportation of cattle have been impacted, reports DAWIT ENDESHAW, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER. The fear, alongside the shortage of supply, is driving up prices, with many now having to do without.
For Tadelle Sheferaw, a cattle trader from Gondar, 725km north of Addis Abeba, this could be one of the worst seasons of all. He has been limited for the past two months from selling his cattle to Addis Abeba’s market.
“Because of the ongoing unrest in our locality and its surroundings, many of us could not sell our livestock to Addis,” he said.
He knows the cattle market well and the past two months were tough. He resides in Gondar town, Kebele 18 – a kebele where the first confrontation between federal police and the alleged suspects ignited and triggered a wide public unrest in the Amhara region.
Many of his friends have been involved in the cattle trade supply to the cattle market in Addis Abeba’s Qera for the past two years.
“In comparison to cattle from other parts of the country, those from Gondar are known to stabilise the market given there fair price,” said Tekei Gidaye, coordinator of the Qera Livestock Market Centre.
On Wednesday, September 7, 2016, the price of the cattle ranged from 7,000 to 25,000Br. However, some speculate that this may go up as the holiday fast approaches.
“So far, the price seems fair,” said Wondossen Alemu, a buyer who says he knows the market all too well for so long now.
Fortune met him at Qera, while looking after the two cattle he had bought for 17,000Br each.
During the Ethiopian Easter holiday, cattle from Harar, considered first class, sold from 18,000 to 27,000Br; those from Jeru, North Shoa, retailed from 12,000 to 20,000Br, while a third category, from Gondar, Wellega, Kebre Mengest and Jimma, were sold from 7,000 to 15,000Br.
In addition, the general retail price of cattle in Qera in April last year was between 6,804 to 12,234Br. While in other markets, like Kotebe and Aqaqi, they were sold between 6,093 to 10,399Br.
The 20,000sqm wide-open space of the cattle market in Qera, off Alexander Pushkin Street, was not crowded by a large population of cows, bulls and oxen. This year’s market is currently lagging behind last year’s Ethiopian New Year season.
Last year, starting from two weeks before the Ethiopian New Year until the eve of festivities, the centre had received close to 5, 277 cattle. But this year, up until September 7, 2016, only 3,946 cattle had made it to Qera – a decline of almost 2,000 cattle. The oxen and bulls mainly come from Gondar, Jimma, Harar and Wellega.
The figure for this year does not include the Holiday eve’s market.
The corral was originally designed to accommodate an average of 2,500 cattle, and 3,000 sheep and goats. On Wednesday morning, only 624 animals were registered to enter in to the centre.
“We were first very concerned when such small numbers came,” said Tekei, where he said the majority had come from Oromia regional sate.
Different to previous experiences, most of the cattle traders from Oromia on Wednesday brought their cattle to the centre during late morning.
“The normal trend is that everyone reaches the centre in the early mornings,” Takei said. “Later, we heard from the traders that most of them were afraid to drive their cattle at night because of the unrest in their region, while also hoping to avoid a market boycott called by some social media activists.”
It was only 21 vehicles that entered the centre during the late morning on Wednesday. But later, a further 38 tracks carrying the cattle joined the market.
But still the volume is low compared with last year’s.
Tadelle, on his part, has managed to bring 11 cattle to the centre. He said it was very difficult to even bring those. He said that the cattle would range in price from 4,500 to 6,000 Br.
“These cattle cost me double the normal trend price,” he claimed. “In previous years, one cattle would cost up to 1,500Br, just to fatten it. So we would sell it after one month.”
He used to buy the cattle from farmers and then fatten them, so they could enter the secondary market in Addis.
“However, nowadays it is not safe to go around and buy cattle,” said Tadelle. “Farmers are also not willing to come to the market fearing the unrest.”
Yet, after passing all of this, getting a car that will deliver the cattle to the market also has its own cost. Just for the delivery of 11 cattle and related costs he has spent 8,000Br, while two months ago, it cost a thousand birr less.
Exacerbating the burden on cattle suppliers, the hike in the price of food supplements used to feed the cattle has seen a one to four birr increment a kilo.
They must be waiting for Friday’s market, said Fekade Lega, a buyer with his own butcher house.
With close to a 56 million cattle population, Ethiopia is among the top ten nations in terms of its livestock population. When a holiday arrives, people will have to choose either to buy or not with the resources they have at their disposal. From the total population, Oromia regional sate contributes the most, at 40pc.
Fekade came to see cattle within the range of 11,000 to 12,000Br.
“In today’s market it difficult to find something that catches my eye,” he said.
Mohammed Kemal, a trader from Jimma, admits the decrease in the number of cattle he saw in the market. He explains that he is not aware of the boycott. Fortunately, he was able to bring his 18 cattle to the market and says 16 have already been sold for between 8,800 and 16,000Br.
“We were concerned that there might be a problem on the road to Addis Abeba,” said Mohammed. “If the market is okay on September 9, I will bring more cattle to the market.”
“So far the market is stable,” said Abrham Meo, head of the trade supervision & controlling department at the Addis Abeba Trade Bureau.
Fearing the shortages, the Bureau has already started working on supplying chickens and eggs via consumer unions.
“My fear is that the market may not stay as it was today,” said Wendossen. “Given the current status where the number of cattle coming to the centre is limited, the price may go up by at least by 1,000Br on each.”
Tadelle, from Gondar, decided not to wait until the Friday market. He managed to sell less than half of what he brought to the market.
“The market was not stable at all,” said Tadelle, who left the market on Friday morning.
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