The end of the European calendar year or the beginning is by far the most festive season of the year,
especially in Ethiopia, as you get to have many holidays whether you are working or going to school. The international Christmas day is celebrated on December 25th, followed by New Year on January 1st, then comes the Ethiopian Christmas on January 7th. And on January 20th, it is time to celebrate Epiphany (Timkat).
And as expected the talk of the town focused on the holiday market. To get some overview of the holiday market situation we went to the Merkato, Shola and Agoza markets. We didn’t consider Abuare Gulit market as the place has not been fully operational after part of it was burnt to ashes on December 20, 2011.
There were huge crowd in all the three market places rushing to buy something for Christmas. “This year the market is by far better than last year. This is the usual Christmas market,” said a shop keeper at Shola who still complained about the palpable quietness of the past year’s holiday shopping. “Last year, I remember I didn’t give you my name because I was depressed by the quietness of the market. But this year people are rushing to the markets, especially those making their last minute shopping,” said Tariku Zergaw. He added that the preparation for Christmas, one of the year’s most important religious celebrations, was going quite well, at least for him.
Capital’s market assessment indicates that there was a significant increase in price of animal products such as butter, eggs, sheep and oxen compared to the figure recorded in the same period last year. For instance, the price of an egg was between 1.40 to 1.50 birr last year during the 2010 Christmas holidays. But the price of eggs went up to 2.00 birr per piece for the Ethiopian New Year in September 2011. And that price (2.00 birr) remained unchanged for this holiday season.
The regular price of one kilo of butter, depending of course on the quality, is sold from 110 to 120 birr. For Christmas though, the price didn’t rise. Still, surprisingly enough butter was sold 65 to 95 birr per kilo during this period last year.
Comparing the price of sheep with that of last year seems absurd. Imagine at last holiday market the price of sheep ranged from 500 birr to 1,200 birr. Throughout this year it has been impossible to get a sheep in this price range. The holiday price index showed that the range was between 850 to 2000 birr, reflecting on the inflation.
Capital also learnt that the price of Oxen has risen slightly. It now stands between 6,000 birr and 8,000 birr. Last year it was possible to get an ox within the range of 5,000 to 7,000 birr. The price of an ox for special raw meat remained almost the same as it was during the Ethiopian New Year, between 10,000 to 14,000 birr.
The price of Teff, is between 850 to 1,100 birr. In the same period last year it was between 800 to 1000 birr. A month ago the price went slightly up from 900 to 1200 birr. Good harvest was said to be the major reason for the slight decline of prices.
Chickens are available in abundance, in all markets, including Merkato, and Agoza Doro Tera (chicken market). The average price of a chicken is now between 75 and 120 birr. At the Elfora farm, the average chicken price was 70 birr, but if you are buying it on the open market, it is sold at 100 birr.
This year’s top Christmas market performer in the price hike stakes was onion. To the surprise of many, onion’s price rose sharply from 3.00 birr to 8.00 birr per kilo. There was no shortage of onions. One could find it in abundance. But the price, after nearly one year, shot dramatically up.
The price of garlic and chilly or green pepper went down considerably. During the Ethiopian New Year four months ago the price of garlic per kilo was 80 to 90 birr. But now it is 30 to 35 birr. The same is true for chilly. Its price per kilo was 20 to 25 birr, but now it is less than 15 birr.
If past experience is any guide, prices normally used to drop on the eve of the holiday. But the last two holidays, Easter and New Year, showed that prices could even rise on the eve. For instance a chicken was sold between 150 and 200 birr at the eve of New Year. This was beyond anyone’s imagination. In the wake of the holiday, of course, the price went down to 65 to 80 birr within days.
What many shoppers Capital talked to noted as exceptional in this holiday however was the severe shortages of water.