KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Despite the country’s vast livestock production, meat prices have scaled up to magnitudes beyond the ability of most customers.
To challenge this situation, civil society groups have unleashed a popular campaign to boycott meat here in Khartoum and some other regional towns.
“The boycott has achieved relative success in the densely populated Capital, Khartoum, last week and would continue through the next week for us to see how responsive are the other regions of the country” the Sudanese Customer Protection Society that spearheaded the campaign said.
“The Khartoum Central, Local, Omdurman Popular and Haj Yousif markets have seen a drop in meat sales during the first three days of the boycott that began on the first of July,” it said.
According to a report by the Society the price per kilogram of lamb meat has dropped to 150-160 pounds down from 220 pounds, while the price per a kilogram of beef has dropped from 160 down to 120-140 pounds, with varying differences, according to quality and location.
Society Chairman, Dr. Nasreddin Shulgami, has stressed the need to “propagate the culture contained in the campaign motto “Expensive commodities should be left” among the public. “Our duty is to raise public awareness and educate consumers about their rights,” he said.
He said they count on professional, youth and women unions to lead the campaign in the society’s grassroots. “The campaign will continue and will also include any commodity that sees a price hike,” he further stressed.
Society Secretary General, Dr.Yasir Mirghani has hailed the citizens of the major railway terminal City of Atbara (260 miles north of Khartoum) who insist to keep the campaign beyond the Holy Korban Bairam festivity (in August).
In Atbara, he said, the boycott was so successful that butchers were forced to cut the number of sheep and cows they used to slay per day by over 50 percent.
Meat is the most important component of the Sudanese cuisine and to do away with it seems very difficult, according to some experts.
Hassan Zarrouq, a farmer who also owns a livestock farm, considered the hike in meat prices not that much, compared with other commodities. “Prices of some other commodities, like sugar, have gone up by 300 percent,” Zarrouq argued, further complaining that the cost of fodder has jumped too high and the cost of water consumed by livestock has tripled. “You can add to this the hike in the prices of veterinary drugs, the duties levied by the localities on livestock traders and on butcheries,” Zarrouq further argued.
“The boycott is no solution for the rising meat prices,” he said, alluding that the aim of this campaign is to “distract the public from other issues!”
Khalid al-Magbool, Assistant General Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Exporters Chamber, charged that livestock producers had kept up production while many other sectors have stopped. “This is due to the earnings from livestock and meat exports,” he said, advising the Consumer Society “to take a good aim, specify the magnitude of the problem and make a careful study before launching such a campaign that may harm the citizen and discredit any civil movement!”
“The issue of livestock production from the field up to the consumer is very complicated. Over 16 entities impose levies on this commodity until it reaches the consumer and at every stage there are intermediaries who impose levies in return for services. Some traders, whom we call the parasites, get high profits,” he said, suggesting for the Society to organize a workshop to be attended by concerned bodies to tackle the problem.
Magbool further belittled the campaign "because it was not based on studies that go down to the root causes of the problem."
He further urged the authorities to launch the Sudanese Livestock Council endorsed within the matrix adopted by the Council of Ministers at an early stage.” If this Council would be set up, it can reorganize the chaotic livestock sector and resolve the problems of livestock production, marketing, exports and funding,” he said.
To probe public response to the boycott, Sudanow interviewed some citizens:
Mawadda Abdu, a university lecturer, said the majority of Sudanese had already boycotted meat even before the Consumer Society’s call because it is so expensive."
She expressed hope that the public would respond to the boycott and turn to the consumption of legumes and vegetables instead. “I am boycotting meat and today I took ta’miyya for breakfast. Ta’miyya (or falafel) is a deeply fried ball made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Taken with bread, ta’miyya is a popular sandwich in Sudan.
Mawadda further laughs and says “I can’t boycott meat for an entire week!”
She expected the boycott to fail because the Sudanese citizens like to eat meat and do not have the culture for boycotts.
Nada Ahmed, a housewife, said the Sudanese will never boycott meat. “Go visit Awlad Omdurman Restaurants to see how people queue for the barbeques there. At the big malls people buy spiced meat. Last Monday I bought meat for the entire week,” she said. "Yesterday I saw my neighbor buy a quarter kilogram of meat: Some bones and a sheep’s tail. I stood looking at her telling myself that: What boycott is this?”.
Nadia Mohamed, an office worker at a private company, said the campaign “would not succeed because Sudanese cannot stand together due to differences in social classes.”
A school manager asserted that: “We Sudanese cannot resist eating red meat. As long as the butcheries are open, meat restaurants are grilling meat and the meat smoke is up in the atmosphere, people will not stop taking meat,” she said.
Zikriat al-Hassan and her sister Salwa said they had cooked a quarter kilogram of meat and kept taking from its soup for four days. And when the boycott was announced they started to cook vegetables without meat.
Rugayya Ahmad has wondered at the reason behind the sharp increase in meat prices while Sudan owns such a big herd of livestock (over 130 million heads of cattle and sheep), fed on natural pastures.
The prices have kept on rising since introduction of the privatization policy in the 1990s without imposing controls that curb greedy merchants in addition to the government economic policies that resulted in the devaluation of the national currency and rising inflation. When the Society launched a similar campaign seven years ago one kilo of meat used to cost 30-36 compared to 140-220 pounds today. Within just a few months of this year the prices of beef and lamb meat have doubled. The only solution the government offers is ‘reduced prices’ sales windows that do not meet the consumers’ needs.
E N D