Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 17:09 UK

Egyptian restaurants hold 'meat strike' as prices soar

By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Cairo

Butcher's stall in Cairo (file photo)
Meat has disappeared from menus

The price of meat in Egypt has risen so quickly over the last few months that restaurants removed it from their menus during a one-day protest.

Prices have jumped by up to 10% in just over four weeks.

Most people have stopped buying meat altogether and authorities have taken measures to protect local supplies.

Imports, which make up 40% of Egypt's meat market, have also jumped in price with shipments now costing hundreds of dollars more than last year.

Egypt is a deeply divided society, and food shortages breed instability in the country.

Despite five years of generally good growth in the economy, the poorest families are lucky if they eat meat once a week.

Price fixing

Typically, the problem of food prices might be overlooked by the better-off - but not this time.

On Monday some 1,300 restaurants in Cairo boycotted meat for a day, to protest at prices and show their solidarity with the vast majority of Egyptians.

Some of the increases were caused by a jump in the price of animal fodder just over a year ago.

This caused Egyptian farmers to slaughter more of their livestock to avoid having to pay the cost of feeding them.

Livestock populations dwindled and after an initial glut of meat, the price rose.

The authorities have taken notice, the governor of Aswan province intervened to fix the price of beef, and no cattle, alive or dead are allowed out of the governorate.

Imported meat has also leapt in price.

A health scare last year prompted importers to cease buying meat from India, and they switched to beef from Brazil.

One importer says that a tonne of Brazilian beef now costs $700 (£457) more than it did last year.

Two years ago there were riots when the price of bread rose just a few cents. A dozen people were killed across Egypt in clashes with security forces.

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