Protein Prices in Yemen Rising Fast

YEMEN - Beef is becoming a luxury meat in Yemen and many consumers have switched to poultry meat. However, even but that is out of the budget for many Yemenis, who are choosing to buy fish as the protein source for their families.
calendar icon 17 February 2009
clock icon 5 minute read

Meat prices are slowly but surely increasing in local markets, pushing the commodity further out of reach for many consumers and forcing them to eliminate this source of protein from their diets, reports Yemen Times.

With a kilogram of beef and mutton having increased to 1,800 rials (YER) in comparison to YER 1,400 last year, many families now opt to consume fish and chicken instead.

"Nowadays I can only afford to buy meat once a month," said Mohammad Al-Akhfash, a school teacher. He said he turned to fresh poultry. "Despite there not being strict health measures to rear chicken in Yemen, I prefer fresh chicken to frozen."

"Local chicken is not safe because of low health standards, so I prefer to buy imported poultry," he explained. Imported chicken is about YER 50 cheaper than local chicken.

Others prefer meat to chicken or fish despite the increase in its price: "I used to eat meat every day when the price was YR 1,500 per kilo late last year. But now, even after price of meat I buy has increased, I still prefer meat to chicken," said Fahmi Al-Rashidi, a sales agent.

"I used to buy a calf for YR 90,000 but now it costs over YER 100, 000," says Hamoud Ali, a butcher who used to have lines of people waiting to buy local meat outside his butcher’s shop.

Butchers say the price of meat has been raised by farmers themselves because they found increased profit in selling their animals to other countries.

"The main reason behind the increase in the price of meat is the export of our animals to kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he said.

"We import live calves from Ethiopia to cover the feed mostly the military forces. We are not the only importers and there are many importers of livestock," said Deputy General Manager of Yemeni Economic Corporation for Trade Affairs Abdullah al-Kuhali. The Yemeni Economic Corporation alone imports 1,000 calves every month.

Despite the corporation selling one kilo of imported meat for YER 850 which is nearly half of the price of the local meat, only the very poor buy it.

Retailers of local and imported meat say meat sales have deteriorated because of the increase in the cost of living and the increase in meat prices.

"I used to sell 300 kilos of meat each day but nowadays, I only sell 50 kilos," said Ahmad Al-Muraisi, director of City Mart. "The main cause of this is the increase of the cost of living and the increase in the price of meat."

"Twenty per cent of our customers have started buying frozen chicken," he said, adding that others continued to buy local chicken.

"I used to sell 600 kilos of imported meat every month, but now I only sell half that quantity," said Mr al-Muraisi. "Although this kind of meat is cheaper at only YR 600 a kilo, the Yemeni consumer continues to prefer local meat."

Rising price of chicken

With many people choosing to poultry as an alternative to meat, the prices of poultry are also increasing due to demand increase.

"Not only have the prices of meat been increased but also the prices of chicken," said Saeed Saleh, an employee. He said he used to see people buying only half a chicken and some others even buy a quarter to feed a whole family.

Abdullah Al-Sarari, owner of a shop for selling live poultry in Al-Hasabah, Sana'a, says he sells a 1.5 kilo of chicken for YER 1,300, which is the highest price recorded in the history of selling poultry in Yemen.

"I sell chicken for YER 600 to 1,200, and I only get YER 50 profit and wages for slaughtering and cutting each chicken," complained Ali al-Harazi, who sells chicken in Al-Sunainah, Sana'a.

Price of fish more stable

Great numbers of people have started buying fish instead of meat or chicken both because it is cheaper and healthier.

Faisal Al-Maghbash, owner of a busy fishmonger's, says that customers crowd outside his shop to buy fish, both because of the variety of the fish he offers and because meat is so expensive.

"I sell one kilo of the best kind of fish for YER 1,200, while the prices of the other kinds range from YER 500 to 900," said Mr Maghbash, who also sells the fish freshly cooked.

"I come here three times a week to buy fresh fish, get it cooked and eat it with my family," said Saeed Abdullah, who says he prefers fish to meat.

"I came every day to this place for eating fish," said Saleh Al-Shamiri. "There are also people who have fish for their meal everyday."

Reasons for the price hikes

Head of the Epidemiology Unit in the General Directorate of Animal Health and Quarantine, Abdullah Al-Maqtari, told Yemen Times there are several reasons behind increasing the prices of animals and then meat.

Draught, slaughtering young animals for meat consumption, the decline in the old habit of cattle rearing and epidemics are the main reasons behind increase of meat prices, explained Mr Al-Maqtari.

The vibrant and noisy livestock market of Souq Nokom in the center of Sana'a is a great place to do business and buy meat. Here, most traders and consumers prefer local meat.

"Although there are great numbers of animals imported from Ethiopia and Somalia, people tend to buy local meat, especially from Tihama famous for its delicious meat," said Abdullah Fadhil, director of Souq Nokom.

Livestock dealers have increased the price of livestock. The price of the single ox has reached YER 180,000.

Annual individual consumption of chicken is 7 kilos and 5.5 kilos of red meat, which according to Mr Al-Maqtari, is very low.

General Director of Animal Health and Quarantine, Mansour Al-Qadasi, says Yemen's animal wealth is estimated at 18 million. Eight million are goats, 7 million are sheep and 1.4 million are cattle and 350,000 are camels. There are no exact figures for chickens, but Mr Al-Maqtari estimates that there are more than twenty million.

Last Eid Al-Adha Eid witnessed an unprecedented hike in the price of cattle because of the great demand for animals to be slaughtered for Islamic rituals, concludes the report from Yemen Times.

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