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Among the big holidays followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox church celebrate every year, Easter is considered as one of the most important one. Preceded by the longest fasting season of the Great Lent, followers fast 40 days to remind the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to redeem human being from sin, and they abstain from eating highly nutritious and energy rich foods like meat, eggs, milk and butter on the lent fasting season. But the deserted foods will become the main festive meals for Easter celebration. Oxen, sheep, goats, hens and roosters are the animals that are highly demanded for their meat during this holiday. Other ingredients as onion, garlic, edible oil, and butter are the main items that are needed to prepare tasty, festive dishes. Starting in the beginning of the week, markets are heavily congested with people buying such animals.
To evade the expensive eve market in her village, Etenesh Mamo, 39, headed to Merkato four days before Easter but her calculation was wrong. A young man selling chicken, offers a price of 170 birr. Etenesh argued ardently but the price does not change. Finally, she bought two and added 10 eggs, each priced 3 birr. “Ten years ago, hens were sold not for more than 50 birr, and eggs with 60 cents; now costs seem like a fancy tale. I need a kilo of butter and five kilos of onion and the cost totals 600 birr. That is the price to make Doro Wot. Anyhow, I pray not to spend more than this in the coming holidays,” Etnesh said worryingly of the usual price hikes during holiday seasons.
Compared with the last Christmas market, the price of poultry at Easter was almost equal to prices at Christmas for chickens that weight nearly a kilo and half and that has good flesh. Cocks are available from 150 birr up to 200 birr while hens can be bought from 120 up to 170 birr.
Hens and cocks are sold in any market, but the best markets to by oxen and sheep are Kerra, Adissu Gebya and Kotebe.
Oxen can be bought in the range of 10,000 birr up to 23,000 birr and the more one pays, the better ox he/she can find in the market. The same also works for sheep which are available from 1,000 birr up to 3,000 birr. And all of these festive meal products does not show significant price increase or reduction compared with previous prices four months ago around Christmas. But surprise is not stamped out altogether. An astounding increase is made on butter which went up by 50 birr, now selling for 220 birr a kilo. The 170 birr price endures until the last weeks of March but it started going up steadily a week ago. Asnaketech Ayele, who sells butter in Shoal Market blame the low rains around January and February. Shortage of rains in these months leave meadows dry and with less pasture for the cattle, and cows give less milk.
“The cows did not get enough grass and that affects the milk they give. Farmers sell a kilo of butter for 210 birr to us and we sell it here with 220 birr,” she explained the reason for the price increase.
To make Ethiopians, most favorite holiday dish – ‘Doro Wot’- one needs at least half kilo of butter to cook it well. And increased price of butter means increased cost in preparing Doro Wot. And this is definitely upsetting for many people as Ethiopians are largely synchronized to eating Doro Wot at big holidays, and even during marked celebrations like weddings.
Normally, butter is produced in most regions of the country but the Southern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples’ Regional State is well known for its butter production. The product from Wolayita is the more preferable one.
Markets were also short of edible oil in the Easter week. People make long lines near consumer association’s shops to buy cooking oil.
“I cannot get the oil which is sold 72 birr per three liters. The shop attendants always tell us they have run out of stock. We usually urged the associations’ to store abundant amounts of cooking oil.’’
“The association sells onions with 11.50 birr and due to this there is no price hike in Atkelet Terra or Merkato, contrary to what used to happen during holidays. We want this in oil also,” a woman explained.
Economists argued that the price hike happen at holidays as suppliers could not handle the big demand. “We have many cows, poultry, goats, and sheep but the suppliers are very small in number. That leads sellers to offer high prices but if we multiply the number of suppliers, we can keep down the price and let more people to earn something,” comments Eyob Tamrat, an economist at Addis Ababa University.
Besides the food stuff markets that buzz up around holidays, bazaars and exhibitions displayed in halls and on streets have become a common scene during holidays in the past five or six years. A variety of items from eggs, home brewed drinks, spices to shoes, clothes, and accessories like belt and purse, from furniture to housekeeping materials are sold at the bazaars creating a nice frenzy holiday atmosphere.
Aman Legesse bought a belt and a pair of shoes at the Arat kilo Easter bazaar and he was delighted to buy local products. “You see people’s effort to sell cultural clothes. The clothes are testimonies that the designers have big potentials, the shoes they made is a good sign that our micro enterprises are understanding the concept of the industry.”
“We shouldn’t pass good entrepreneurs who are participating in the bazaars, we have to appreciate them,” Aman says.
He added that such bazaars should be held several times in a year to boost entrepreneurs’ morale.
But for a person like Yoseph Ayele, the Easter bazaar which is on display at the Addis Ababa Exhibition Center is an opportunity to sale outdated products.
“I think the term exhibition is not well understood here. I go around all the stalls and most of them increase the price but they said they have made a big discount and the other thing is that most of the imported materials seem like less likely to be sold in foreign markets.’’
“Exhibition is not a dumping place for old and cheap material, it is where new, more local products are introduced” he added.