Menufia, Egypt | AFP | The cattle traders in the Ashmun market, north of the capital Cairo, jostled to lure customers into buying a buffalo or a sheep for Eid al-Adha, the annual Muslim holiday when custom requires a sacrifice.
But this year, with inflation in Egypt hitting record highs, customers seemed more interested in gawking at the cattle than buying any ahead of Friday, the first day of Eid al-Adha.
“Last year there was more business. This year, no one wants to buy cattle because of the increased prices,” said one trader, Mohammed Masoud.
The cost of everything has gone up in Egypt since the country floated the pound late last year — decreasing its value to the dollar by half — and raised fuel prices.
Masoud fed his livestock fodder that cost 2.5 pounds ($0.14) a kilogram before the currency was floated. It now costs him seven pounds.
“A calf that cost 15,000 pounds last year now costs 30,000,” he said.
Eid al-Adha is one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar when the major pilgrimage takes place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
To commemorate Abraham accepting to sacrifice his son to God only for him to be provided with a ram instead, many Muslims sacrifice a sheep or a cow.
Meat has always been a luxury to many in a country where poverty is rampant, but the new prices are putting off even those who had purchased cattle in previous years to sacrifice on the first day of Eid and distribute the meat among family and the needy.
In July, annual inflation hit 34.2 percent according to official figures.
That follows a series of austerity reforms linked to a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan that Egypt, hit by years of tumult, desperately needs.
“Even if people want to buy meat, a kilogram costs 130 pounds,” said Nasser Abou Kila, who had come to the market in the province of Menufia after spending two weeks trying to find a better deal elsewhere.