Meat prices soar in Algeria despite massive imports

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ramadan food prices hike
Shoppers check meat at a shop in Algiers on first day of Ramadan. Photo – Louafi Larbi/Reuters

Prices of red and white meat in Algeria have soared during the fasting month of Ramadan despite importing more than 35,000 tonnes of frozen red meat since January 2012 to meet high demand in the country.

“Since January 2012, public and private firms have imported 35,000 tonnes of frozen red meat, bovine in particular,” Algerian Press Service quoted Kamel Chadi, the chairman of the board of PRODA, an animal production holding company, as saying.

Imported meat contributes in meeting demand in the market, which is especially high during the month of Ramadan.

A consumer rights association in Algeria has launched a boycott campaign against red and white meat to protest soaring prices that have escalated during the Muslim fasting month.

Mohamed Toumi, Chief Executive of Algerian Consumer Federation and initiator of the campaign, said the boycott is set to last a week.

“After the boycott call of red and white meat between 10-16 July, we intend to launch another boycott campaign to target other soaring-price products, such as zucchini and dried vegetables such as chickpeas,” Toumi told Xinhua news agency in an interview.

He estimated that 30% consumers joined the first round of boycott. Toumi said his federation aims to hit 50-60% turnout in the second boycott campaign to be launched next week.

Currently, chicken is sold at 350 to 400 Algerian dinars ($4.2 to 4.8) per kilo, compared to 200 dinars ($2.4 dollars) a week earlier. Mutton and beef were sold at 1100 dinars ($13.2) to 1500 dinars ($18) per kilo, beyond the reach of North African country’s middle class.

Out of the 380,000 tonnes of red meat consumed annually in Algeria now, 50,000 tonnes (frozen) is mainly imported from Brazil, India and Europe.

Toumi blamed the soaring prices in Ramadan on ‘absence of public authorities’ which are supposed to prevent food prices from going too far.

He also slammed go-between sellers who speculate on prices. “Stockbreeders told us that their prices are set between 400 and 500 dinars per kilogram of meat. Yet, at the butchery, this same meat is offered at more than 800 dinars.”

Algerian government has authorised public and private operators to import some 10,000 tons of frozen red and white meat, to be added to 10,000 tons of meat already stocked, in a bid to curb high prices.

A report issued by the Customs’ National Office of Statistics (ONS) showed consumer prices in Algeria increased by 8.7% in June, compared with the same period in 2011, resulting in an annual inflation rate of 7.3% compared to 6.9% in May. The increase was mainly driven by the 10.76% rise of food prices.

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