On Wednesday January 4, 2012, the
large open market at Shola was filled with the
noises of vendors trying to lure customers who
looked around enquiring about prices and just walked
on, it seemed. As in many places of commerce,
customers seemed to hesitate a lot here, too.
Traditionally holidays call for a
feast in every household, complete with the
slaughtering of a sheep or goat, sharing meat from
bulls slaughtered in every neighbourhood, as well as
homemade tella and tej. Neighbours and relatives
invite each other over for lunch and dinner for
about a week starting from the day of the holiday.
But, the rising cost of living has
been gradually chipping away at this important
Ethiopian tradition. This holiday shopping season,
the trade fairs, bazaars, and open markets have been
seeing more customers either shopping with pain or
not shopping at all. Many people only bought at
Shola after a lot of bargaining, and most did not
buy at all, last Wednesday, but that did not deter
the prices from going up even further.
Each holiday sees a sudden demand
boost followed by a price hike in almost everything
from onions to garlic, butter to poultry, and sheep
to goats. This time the hike has not only been
higher than last month but also last Christmas.
The price of a live chicken fell
between 45 Br and 135 Br at Shola, while it went up
to 180 Br in Merkato, even for the same size. In
fact, prices of 150 Br and upwards were common this
season. Add to that the cost of the large amount of
onion required to make chicken stew or doro wot the
traditional way: about three kilograms for one bird,
give or take a few.
This holiday, onion is also enjoying
a strong spike, up to 12 Br a kilogramme. The
decline in the price of some essential spices, such
as coriander, from 120 Br to 80 Br, would have
offered some solace, but not enough of it is used to
make much of a difference.
One coping mechanism under such a
scenario is saving money for the festival months in
advance. That was what Aragaw Asseged, a public
servant with a wife and three children, making 900
Br a month, did. He targeted to spend 500 Br for
Christmas, and, on Wednesday, he bought two chickens
for 240 Br, a kilogramme of butter for 120 Br, and
two kilogrammes of what is known as yehabesha onion
or red onion for 24 Br. He might buy some meat with
what is left of the 500 Br. The same amount of
yeferenj onion or white onion (not to be confused
with garlic) would have saved him seven Birr, but he
did not go for it, as it would not have tasted as
good. Actually, white onion was about half price
(4.50 Br) at Atkelt Terra compared to the other
major markets, but not everyone goes there.
He preferred buying the red onions
for their delicious taste and ability to keep
chicken stew viscous. They contain more juice to
make enough stew for more people.
In a dull market day where consumers
complained of either the high prices or not finding
what they were looking for, the vendors, eager for a
sale at the prices they named, invited the customers
over for a bargain by calling, “Come and buy a
Consumers approached some of these
vendors with a smile and began their tenuous
bargaining, bringing some hope for both bargainers
on a dull market day.
Slaughtered chickens are sold in
super markets for much cheaper prices, from 44 Br to
80 Br, but many families, including Argaw’s, still
want to slaughter their own chickens. Somehow, there
is almost a sort of Old Testament value attached to
shedding the blood of the animals at home.
“I respect the tradition of
slaughtering at home, as it is a sign of blessing,”
Live sheep were selling for 700 Br
t0 2,500 Br, but the Addis Abeba Abattoirs
Enterprise (AAAE) was also selling slaughtering
sheep to customers for 72 Br a kilogramme plus 30 Br
for the service. The Enterprise expects to slaughter
1,000 goats, 2,115 sheep, and 1,812 head of cattle
by the direct order of customers for this festival,
according to Tekola Hailu, Slaughtering Service and
Meat Sale director. It also looks forward to selling
700 slaughtered sheep from its outlet at the
Abattoir’s compound. The AAAE has already recruited
35 additional staff to complement the existing
workforce of 791 people.
The price of a kilogramme of meat at
the butchery varies between 70 Br and 100 Br,
depending on the quality and locality, up from the
52 Br during the price control that was imposed by
the government last year. Nevertheless, the
butcheries at Kera have maintained their
traditionally low prices, although the quality is
also somewhat poorer than at other places.
Nonetheless, a kilogramme of meat is available for
as low as 48 Br. The cattle market, nearby, has
bulls that sell for as much as 6,000 Br to 20,000
The holiday is not only a joyous
occasion for Aragaw but also a time for spending
much of his income on food items.
Although the food inflation rate,
which was 50.3pc in November 2011, seems to justify
the price increment in food items, it does not
explain the holiday prices, according to ,
consultant and marketing lecturer at Unity
“The prices, which will eventually
adjust themselves after the celebration, are
artificial and not determined by supply and demand,”
To create a healthy marketing
environment, traders should opt for offering sales
during holiday celebrations, since they will make a
profit from the high volume of sales, instead of
imposing unjustifiable prices to take advantage of a
The businesspeople would make a lot
of profit from the sheer volumes of the holiday
market, according to him.
However, last week, on the grounds
of the marketplaces at Shola and Merkato, prices
were not adjusted to supply and demand principles.
The traders were just pushing them up, claiming high
transportation costs and a short supply.