Welcoming 2009

The New Year dawns on us once more and we prepare to have an appropriate sendoff for the year 2008. This holiday is considered the biggest as followers of both major religions, Muslims and Christians, participate in the celebrations.

Looking into the cyber market, the number of people doing their shopping online is increasing slowly. Although mostly, online shopping platforms just feature clothing, electronics, household items or furniture, there are those few that feature food items.

One of these platforms is Muday Gift Shop, a website where people can order different combinations of packages; it can be sheep with cake or sheep with cake and wine; whatever the buyer needs. Currently, through a holiday discount, according to Muday’s Facebook page, one can purchase a medium sized sheep along with a bottle of wine for USD 145, which roughly translates to a little over 3,000 birr. Other packages offered on the website include items such as cake and flower for USD 85. All the prices listed are posted in USD as they are targeting customers living abroad who buy products and have them delivered to their loved ones here in Ethiopia.

The Vibe in markets in Addis Ababa such Shola and Bole Rwanda is vibrant. As Doro Wot (spicy chicken stew) is a favorite holiday feast for many, chicken is high in demand. The price of live chicken has gone up, selling at 150 to 200 birr a bird. As most Ethiopians still prefer live chickens, it is usually more expensive than frozen supermarket chickens which currently sell starting from 90 up to 120 birr.

The blues over very high sheep prices also lingers and is frustrating shoppers although most have accepted that it is highly unlikely for the price to decrease anytime in the future. “It is what it is people have continued to buy it for the set high price. I never really expected the cost to decrease; increase yes,” said a shopper in Kera looking for the right sized and priced sheep for his family.

If you can afford it you can find a good sized sheep starting from 2,800 and above. But that remains out of many people’s price range making chickens the way to go.

When it comes to vegetables which are equally important for the celebration, the prices are generally reasonable. For a kilo of onions, customers will pay eight birr and garlic, an item that has remained expensive, is selling for 47 birr per kilo.

Butter, another holiday essential that is clarified with different herbs and used in the making of delicious stews, is selling for 180 birr per kilo. This specific type of butter is one that is usually sourced from smallholder farmers and the product doesn’t go through a factory like process.

Another option for this is buying table better that is processed by factories and when clarified using different herbs would taste the same as the pervious option. A quarter of table butter sold in different supermarkets and mini marts is going for 50 birr, the current market shows.

What has seen a dramatic increase in price in the months leading up to the holiday has been for Teff which is selling for 25.50 birr per kilo.  And another necessity for the holiday feast; egg has also increased in price where a single egg from local breed chickens is sold for  2.80 while the that of a foreign breed is selling for 3 birr.

The New Year Bazzar at the Addis Ababa exhibition center has also been a huge attraction. As usual, traders are using all means to cash in on people that are spending money. With the loud music, persuasive sales people and free samples and giveaways for food items, it can be very difficult to visit the bazaar and leave out without purchasing anything.

To buy locally made items such as leather products; shoes bags and jackets, the event is an ideal place. While many things at these holiday bazaars are not as cheap as they should be or people expect them to be, many products that are made in Ethiopia such as leather shoes, bags, jackets, cotton t-shirts and sweat-pants as well as food items such as oil, flour, pasta and spices, are usually sold for cheaper prices than regular shops.

“I only come here for the local products that are on sale here. The items are usually  really good quality and it makes me proud to buy something that is made in  Ethiopia. If it is produced here and if it is offered at a more fair price than imports, then why not stick to local produce?” asked Senayit Asemaw, a young women looking to buy leather shoes at one of the local stands.

Looking at different parts of the town and inside malls, the ‘Sale’ ‘Discount’ and ’50 % OFF’ signs are plastered all over clothing stores. It all looks so tempting until customers actually find out that the prices are not cheap at all. The signs usually are just a trap to lure in customers and make them believe that the prices are less expensive than regular days.

“Most of us are required to put up the signs because the owner orders it. We know that the prices are still expensive to be honest but it is true that people will be attracted by the signs and will usually buy,” a sales lady working in one of the many shops in Friendship building told Capital.

Overall, the holiday market has been as vibrant as pervious holiday seasons, offering fair as well as shocking prices to the ever enthusiastic and hopeful shoppers that are always looking to get good deals.