Accessibility links

Rising Meat Prices in Turkey Put Crimp on Eid Festival

Muslims around the world will observe Eid al-Ahda, the major Muslim festival marking the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and a remembrance prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice of his son, now symbolized by the slaughtering of sheep, (File)

Turkey begins its celebration of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Tuesday. The festival of sacrifice is traditionally marked by families killing sheep or cattle. But with the price of meat rising to an alarming levels over the past few weeks, there has been a a public outcry.

A buyer and seller are shaking hands while haggling over the price of livestock. As tradition dictates the grip is broken only when a deal is struck. This scenario is being repeated all over the country as more than two and half million sheep and cattle will be sacrificed during the Eid al-Adha festival.

This year, however, the haggling has hit a snag as sky high meat prices factor in. Mehmet Tas came here to buy an animal to sacrifice, but will go home empty handed:

We came here to get an animal for sacrifice but the prices are too high, he says. Much higher than the price fixed by the state. So we can't buy. The price goes up to $2000.

And, the sellers are taking a hit as well. At this market in Istanbul, Sinan Gul tells me there are too few buyers. He traveled 300 kilometer to sell his animals.

There is no buyer now. Nobody buys now, he says, but we can we do. It's so expensive now for us to bring up animals, and the cost of bring them here.

Last month, Turkey's religious affairs directorate called on people to not refrain from sacrificing animals as it may further drive up the country's high meat prices. But under pressure from the government, he immediately withdrew the call.

Despite government claims of no shortages, the price of meat has more than doubled in the last the two years. And they continue to rise.

Over the weekend, TV political programs were filled with discussions about why the price of meat continues to rise. Some blame the sellers for hoarding in a bid to drive prices higher; while others blame Middle Eastern nation's for buying Turkey's stock. Other suggest global warning is to blame.

Regardless, the government is feeling the heat, especially as many of its supporters are religiously conservative.

In a bid to bring down prices, the government has eased a ban on importing livestock. Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker promised things will be brought under control.

Yes prices are exaggerated but I am sure things will settle down. This happens every year. The Meat and Fish Authority imported 20,000 animals to Istanbul alone, he says.

Turkey has imported animals from as far as South America. Most have come from neighboring European countries. But, despite the effort, prices remain stubbornly high.

Many, such as Abdullah Kaptan, are left hoping to find a late bargain.

This is not a realistic price for an animal, it's just too high so we will wait, he says. If it is financially possible we will sacrifice. If not we won't. We can't sacrifice for such a higher price.

But analysts warns that bargains are in short supply this year, meaning many will have to forgo the tradition of sacrifice.