Campaign to boycott meat gains steam as gov’t voices support
Courtesy: "Balaha lahma" campaign Facebook page

In response to a popular call to boycott meat in protest of rising prices, Agriculture Minister Salah Helal announced government support for the campaign and the sale of meat at LE50 per kilogram at ministry outlets, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported on Tuesday.

The campaign, “Balaha lahma,” which translates loosely as “Let’s forget about meat,” began earlier this month in Upper Egypt as meat prices started skyrocketing ahead of the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday, when sheep are traditionally slaughtered. Prices shot up to over LE100 per kilogram in certain areas.

The campaign has a strong social media presence, quickly becoming a prominent trending topic on Twitter. In the past two weeks, support for the movement has become increasingly widespread, reaching the capital.

TV presenter Youssef al-Hosseiny announced his support of the campaign on his official Twitter account, saying, “Boycott red meat and its products and discipline the greedy traders, maybe then the government will toughen up a bit.”

Another talk show host, Gaber al-Karmouty, appeared on privately owned channel ONtv carrying a chunk of meat in a show of support, with a banner that says, “We support the meat boycotting campaign because the government is lost.” 

A number of organizations have also declaring their support of the campaign, including the April 6 Youth Movement, which tweeted, “Boycott to reclaim your stolen rights.”

Supply Minister Mahmoud Diab announced on Sunday that the government does not oppose the campaign, state-owned Al Ahram reported.

Mohamed Gad, the campaign’s spokesperson, based in Aswan, told Mada Masr that the boycott has reached 17 governorates so far and that they are currently working on coordinating and uniting local initiatives.

Gad says that while declarations of support and participation in the boycott are all that citizens can currently do, the government is expected to take more action.

The campaign blames the rising prices primarily on traders, with slogans that call on people to “fight the greed of the traders.” However, Gad explains that that steep meat prices stem from an amalgamation of problems, including the monopoly of the industry by a handful of businessmen, violations by local butchers and distributors, and the lack of government oversight.

While distributors in several governorates have reacted to the campaign by dropping prices by up to LE20, Gad expects that this will not last for long if the government does not introduce mechanisms to oversee the process.

The head of the Consumer Protection Authority, Atef Yaacoub, said in statements to Al-Borsa website that the authority stands behind the boycott, and will increase its monitoring of the market by carrying out field visits to ensure that meat sold is of good quality and prices are controlled.

Despite its positive statements, Gad says the government has failed to create mechanisms that will ensure that laws protecting consumers and other regulations are adhered to. 

For a brief round-up of the debates on social media on the boycott, see Mada’s live blogging platform, Mersal.