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Chicken Prices Starting to Simmer Down

by 5m Editor
10 September 2008, at 7:54am

EGYPT - Poultry prices fell this week as the initial burst of Ramadan demand faded and families prepare to spend more on other foods and schooling.

By live body weight, the price of a chicken dropped from between 11 and 12 pounds (EGP) per kilo to EGP10-11. The cost of frozen chicken is down to EGP14.5-15.0 per kilo, said Mohamed El Shafei, vice chairman of the Poultry Council in Egypt.

The high cost of feeds such as soybeans in concert with Ramadan-driven demand amplified prices at the start of the month, Mr El Shafei said. While Ramadan generally sparks a rush for poultry, the effect was especially potent this year as the opening of the holy month fell on the first of September, when many receive their paychecks, Mr El Shafei said. Because more people could afford poultry and other types of meat, they bought them, he said.

Now, as paydays grow distant, parents prepare for schools and their accompanying fees to weigh on budgets, and families stock up for the upcoming Eid El-Fitr, consumers’ disposable income is contracting and they are buying less poultry.

“[These activities] need a lot of money,” he added.

Earlier this week, several local press reports suggested the threat of antitrust action prodded poultry firms to lower prices, reports Daily News Egypt.

Near the start of the month, Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid had requested a report on the root of the spike in chicken prices and did not rule out state action in the case of wrongdoing. But for now, the ministry is not planning any action against poultry companies nor have any threats been issued, a source at the ministry said.

Mr El Shafei said he argued against the possibility of a monopoly at a meeting with representatives from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) last week.

“I told them that we can’t do a monopoly,” he said. “Why? Because we cannot keep the birds for a long time. They will be destroyed after a few hours.” Therefore, hoarding — where suppliers hold back stock to drive up its price before selling it — is impossible for poultry dealers, he said.

A second reason a monopoly is an unlikely cause of price hikes is that there are more than 20,000 farms in Egypt that can sell chickens, Mr El Shafei said. “Where is the monopoly?” he said. “Anyone can sell chickens.”

Mr El Shafei said he asked representatives to compare poultry prices to those of other goods, like red meats and fish, which are also high.

“I told them that [poultry] prices would go down after one week,” he said. “They agreed with me 100 per cent.”

5m Editor