Wubit Teklemariam, 57, was shopping for the upcoming Ethiopian holiday, New Year, when The Reporter talked to her. She has been married for the past 39 years. She remembers she first moved to Gondar as a newly wed where everything was extremely cheap compared to the present day.
The first time she went shopping as the head of her family, a sheep was sold only for 3 birr but the hide was resold for 2 birr, costing her a net price of 1 birr.
Chicken, eggs and other ingredients in the traditional Ethiopian holiday feast were bought for a price which was almost zero, she says.
Another lady that The Reporter came across in the Sholla market in Addis Ababa also tells the same story. However, the difference with this lady is that she got married some 15 years ago, 24 years after Wubit. She says that a kilo of butter was sold for 23 birr, which has risen more than four-fold times this year. Sheep is sold for 1000 birr while a chicken fetches 75 birr, according to a recent market survey done by The Reporter.
Holiday market – Addis Ababa
According to prices in some markets of the city, a chicken is sold from 65 to 75 birr on average while in few of the markets the price went up to 80. A kilo of onion, a major ingredient in the holiday feast recipe of Ethiopians, costs around 12 birr and a single egg was able to fetch 1.60-1.75 birr. There are reports that some shops are hoarding eggs in hopes of a better price as the holiday drew closer.
Depending on its quality, which is determined by the time it took to get it to the market, a kilo of butter is sold from 75 to 90 birr on average. Alemayehu Sisay, a cattle trader at Sholla market, is excited that Id al-fitr and the Ethiopia New Year celebrations happened to fall on successive days. He says that the occurrence of two holidays in the same week is responsible for the price hike in the market that he is selling his cattle in. The price for sheep also differs according to the amount of meat it yields. Hence, the price Alemayehu’s sheep fetches is 550, while it is goes as high as 1,700 for a mukit, a local term for a well-bred sheep. However, he says that the cattle ere expensive when he bought them in the first place and that traders are not responsible for the sharp increase.
Holiday market – Gondar
Gondar is a town some 700 kilometers north of Addis Ababa. For comparison purposes The Reporter surveyed some markets there. On average a chicken is sold for 65 birr, while an egg fetches 1.50 birr and a kilo of butter is sold as high as 90 birr. A kilo of onion showed no change from the price in Addis Ababa.
However, holiday shoppers there are more concerned about the increase in price in a week’s time as the holiday approaches rather than the long term price evolution.
Holiday market – Aksum
Another town to north, which is best known for the historical monument, the Aksum obelisk, did not experience as such sharp price increases in the face of the upcoming holidays.
On average a chicken is priced at 50 birr while a kilo of butter costs an astronomical 120 birr and above. The person The Reporter contacted by phone in this town says that an egg is sold for 1.25, a sheep for 700 and a goat for 300 birr on average. However, he also said that it is highly unlikely that the price would stay the same as the day draws closer.
Holiday market – Harar and Dire Dawa
The two towns to the east of the Addis were also covered in the market assessment. Holiday shoppers in Dire Dawa reported that as of Wednesday a chicken and an egg cost 50 and 1.50 birr, respectively while other products did not show a considerable difference from the price in the capital.
Prices in Harar as well are not that different. For instance, a goat is sold for 500 birr, a price lower by half from just two weeks before. Harar is one of the towns in Ethiopia where Muslims and Christians live in harmony. However, the fact that both Muslim and the Christian holidays came in quick succession has made the already intense market worse, according to the people who talked to The Reporter.
Other markets like Shashemene also did not show different price levels from the capital. A few years back, such was not the case. Once out of the capital, prices, especially that of the food products, were significantly cheaper. Yet, the limited market survey that The Reporter did shows that the prices at the capital and other towns are becoming one very fast. Happy holidays!!
By Dawit Taye