Shola Gebeya, the second largest open-air market in
the capital, was not as vibrant last Monday
afternoon as it normally is during the week
immediately before holidays; with just five days to
go to Easter, on Monday afternoon, April 13, 2009,
the big baskets that usually contained chickens were
almost empty while the cattle, goat and sheep market
had very few animals in them.
Despite this, there were no indications of a decline in the
cost of these animals.
Two days later, however, the market place came alive as
more and more market actors showed up.
One of them is Zewdu Welde-tsadik. The 52-year old man, is
a veteran in the business of sheep and goat vending;
he has done it for the past 35 years.
Over the years, he has noticed the price of sheep and goat
increasing. He argues that both the farmers and
merchants in the rural parts of the country now have
more information about the daily price of
commodities in different markets. In fact, the
merchants in the rural areas have the comparative
advantage of better access to, and more information
over, their locality. Hence, both bid the price up a
The merchants directly buy from the farmers and keep
animals with them till the market favours what they
have in stock. When these items reach merchants in
town, there is a marginal profit added to the price
tag. This elongated supply chain increases the price
beyond normal, according to Zewdu.
For instance, on average, the price of sheep increased by
125 Br and that of goat by 175 Br as compared to the
price during last year's Easter week.
Zewdu seems to have a conventional knowledge of how market
dynamics operate. With most consumers having a
constant income pitted against increasing prices of
most commodities, transactions are quite nominal, he
"The current situation is a challenge not only for buyers,
but also for sellers," Zewdu told Fortune.
"Most of those who visit the market do not buy; they
simply ask about the prices."
In contrast to the sheep and goats market, the price of
cattle reflected a decline.
Debebe Asseffa, 36, has been, for almost half of his age,
dealing with cattle as herdsman, broker and now as
Compared to last year, the price of cattle has declined on
average by 1,000 Br, according to Debebe. The reason
for the decline, he explained, is related to a good
farming season. However, he expected a price swing
towards the last days of the week as the holiday
For the majority of those who are not capable of
participating in the cattle, sheep and goat market,
the chicken business is an alternative choice.
Gebru Bireda, 55, is a farmer in Cheha Wereda of Gurage
Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's
Regional State. In addition to the agricultural
activity he undertakes in his home town, Gebru has
been engaged in the street vending of hens for more
than 15 years. On the peripheries of Atkilt Tera,
the largest fruits, vegetable and fish market in
Piazza, he was selling chickens between the 30 Br to
80 Br price range. The market fluctuated highly last
year. A chicken sold for as high as 100 Br then, but
this year, the highest price remained at 80 Br up to
Wednesday. But consumers complain that the price is
Nevertheless, the price of a chicken at the truck retail
shops run by ELFORA, a sister company of MIDROC
Technology Group, was cheaper at about 60 Br each as
observed in one of these shops in Arat-Kilo area.
In the week before Easter, it is unthinkable for consumers
to go home without visiting one of the vegetable
markets in the city. One such market is Atkilt Tera.
Sherefa Mifta, a young man in his mid-20s has been in the
business of vegetable sales for the past nine years
at the heart of Atkilt Tera. In his retail shop
filled with different kind of vegetables, he was
selling a kilo of red onion for 6.20 Br, white onion
for nine Birr, tomato for five Birr, potato for four
Birr and carrot for three Birr as opposed to 4.25
Br, 8.5 Br, 2.75 Br, four Birr and three Birr,
respectively, two weeks ago. On average, red onion
and tomato showed a rise of two Birr per kilo, while
the retail price of potato and carrot remained
constant. Mifta attributes the rise in price to the
imbalance between demand and supply.
Another item highly marketed during holidays like Easter is
butter. Unlike previous experiences, its price has
gone down this holiday week.
Muluwork Alemayew, 22, owner of, Mimi II, a shop located at
Kibe Berenda (Butter Market) of Merkato, said the
price of butter had dropped significantly. Last
year, a kilogram of butter sold for up to 120 Br;
this year it is selling for 30 Br less.
In sharp contrast, the price of cheese, which was 14 Br to
15 Br in the middle of the fasting season, has
climbed to 25 Br this week.
The same mixed market realities have also been the case in
other major towns like Adama (Nazreth) of Oromia
For instance, activities at traditional market places in
Adama seemed inactive up to mid this week, unlike
previous experiences in the week immediately before
Easter. Thus, rather declining prices was common
across commodities that the public purchased for the
holiday up to Wednesday, April 15, 2009.
In the market in Adama last Wednesday, while the price of
red pepper showed an average of a more than 50 Br
decline per kilogram from that of the same time last
year, butter reflected an increase of close to five
Birr. Red pepper, which was sold for 70 Br to 80 Br
a kilogram last year, went down to 17 Br.
The price of a kilo of butter mid last week ranged between
70 Br and 100 Br.
"I'm glad to see such a significant price decrease for red
pepper," Fekadu Birra a restaurant owner in the
town, told Fortune. "On the other hand, the
increase in tthe price of butter is not that
significant for me."
The market price for goats has shown a considerable rise;
it ranged between 350 Br to 525 Br, while it was
between 250 Br to 320 Br before the main fasting
season of Christians in Ethiopia started. The cost
of chicken at the Adama market was 50 Br to 70 Br on
An average-sized sheep sold for 450 Br, according to Samuel
Abera, a resident in Adama.
The usual and communal "share-meat" practice seems to have
continued as one alternative for bringing home the
meat for those Ethiopian families who cannot afford
to buy a whole ox, a sheep or a goat individually.
By Wednesday, urban dwellers of the low income
bracket in the town had started to form groups of 10
to 15 and put in up to 200 Br to 300 Br each to buy
oxen that cost between 2,500 Br to 3,750 Br for the
Even though, it is common practice that prices go up in
holiday markets, consumers in Adama were optimistic
that prices would remain constant all through the
week; some even expected a slight decline by the end
of the week. Some still wait for the eve that
heralds Easter to buy these commodities.
Unlike in Addis Abeba and Adama, the price of most
commodities has shown an increase in Hawassa town of
Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's
Regional State (SNNPRS), forcing some consumers to
limit or abandon, in worst cases, their usual
practice, shifting instead to alternative
For instance, the price of butter, a major ingredient of
almost every holiday meal in Ethiopian families,
shot up from 50 Br a kilogram to 85 Br over the
week. Red onion showed a five Birr increase per
kilogram; the previous week it had sold for three
Birr a kilogram, while this week, it jumped to eight
Birr. The price of chicken rose from 30 Br the
previous week to 70 Br last Wednesday.
The customary diet system of the overwhelming majority of
Ethiopians during holiday seasons, and the few weeks
after the actual festive day, is dependent on meat
and dairy products. Most of the country's huge
cattle, ruminants (sheep and goat) and dairy
products are marketed and consumed during such
In Ethiopia, the cattle population was estimated to be 40.4
million heads in 2008, of which 44.9pc are male and
55.1pc female. The ruminants population was 20.7
million sheep and 16.4 million goats. The total
poultry population in the country was estimated at
32.2 million. Of these, 94pc are indigenous, 4.4pc
cross, and 1.5pc exotic birds. Chicks, laying hens,
and cocks account for 39pc, 33pc and 11pc,
respectively, of the flock composition. The combined
estimated annual egg production for the year 2005/06
from the three breed groups was estimated to be over
67.5 million, according to a 2008 publication by the
Addis Abeba Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral
Associations (AACCSA) entitled "Livestock Resource
Potentials: Constraints and Opportunities for
Intervention by the Private Sectors."
The rural population dependency on livestock sub-sectors is
indicated as 7.8pc being solely livestock dependent,
14.6pc predominantly livestock dependent and 74.5pc
dependent on crop production. The system of the
latter is mixed crop-livestock farming, with
dominant operations serving as the main source of
income, according to AACCSA's book.
The contribution of this agricultural sector to the total
agricultural output is about 18pc, and to the total
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is around 35pc.
Livestock annual growth rates are estimated at 1.1pc for
cattle and 0.2pc for small ruminants. The human
population growth, on the other hand, is 2.5pc on
average. This shows that the livestock population
growth has been lagging behind that of the human