x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Meat traders accused of cashing in on Eid

Parts of the Northern Emirates have seen dramatically higher animal prices as sellers raise rates in advance of Eid.

SHARJAH // The message that Eid is a time of giving appears to have missed livestock sellers in the Northern Emirates, residents say.

They complain they are being ripped off by traders looking to cash in on the holiday, with prices up to 66 per cent higher than normal.

The difference in prices appears to be most pronounced in Umm Al Qaiwain, where Iranian sheep have been selling for Dh800 instead of the usual Dh500. Indian sheep have sold for Dh500 instead of Dh400. Emirati goats, normally sold for Dh1,500 a head, have been costing between Dh2,000 and Dh2,500 at market.

Traders say high demand, especially among charitable organisations buying large numbers of livestock, was pushing up prices.

"A charity group can have an order to take about 200 goats and the trader would move around to other traders to raise the number," says Ibrahim Khatris, a trader in the Ajman market."So most traders reserve the goat for big buyers and only sell to individuals when it's really a good price."

But some residents say the problem is a lack of monitoring. "I have seen people coming from Sharjah looking for cheap sheep here only to go back to their emirate shocked," says Hamad Al Shehhi of UAQ. "They found the prices here were higher than in Sharjah."

In Sharjah, Iranian sheep have been selling for Dh600 instead of the usual Dh500. Indian sheep have been marked up by Dh50, to Dh450.

Somalian sheep have had a 33 per cent mark-up, from Dh300 to Dh400. And Emirati sheep are the priciest of all, costing Dh1,200 rather than the usual Dh1,000.

Prices in Ajman were similar to those in Sharjah.

Buyers say the increased demand is leading some traders to lie about the origins of their animals so they can charge more.

"Someone was showing me a sheep I could well identify to be from Africa as an Iranian sheep," says Abu Ali Ahmed, shopping in the Ajman animal market.

"I have been buying these sheep every Eid for the past 20 years and can tell a sheep from Africa, like Somalia, from an Iranian one. Only Somali sheep have black heads."

Rashid Abdul Rahim, a sheep trader at the UAQ market, defends his prices by saying the market's values were on a par with those of last Eid, and residents are complaining only because livestock in other emirates is cheaper.

"We sold the sheep at the same prices last year and we shall keep our word this year," Mr Abdul Rahim says. "Those complaining have to compare our prices with other emirates on Eid days. Our prices would have turned the lowest compared to those of other emirates."

A municipality official says it is hard to set prices for traders in the UAQ market because each animal is different. Traders also buy animals at different prices from their suppliers.

The official also casts light on another Eid problem, that of home slaughtering.

He says the UAQ slaughterhouse has been fully equipped and expanded, and is able to accommodate 500 animals a day, compared with 250 last year.

The slaughterhouse also added two vets, five butchers and an inspector of health and hygiene from the municipality.

Shatha Ali Al Mualla, the director of public health at Sharjah Municipality, says officials are working longer hours to inspect the markets and test the health of all animals arriving in the country.

"We encourage residents to call us on 993 in case they find any animal health violations," Ms Al Mualla says.

"We mostly want them to report those slaughtering at home as we have made it compulsory for all slaughters to be carried out in our slaughterhouses, where health and hygiene conditions are guaranteed."