JEDDAH: IRFAN MOHAMMED
Published — Wednesday 10 July 2013
Last update 10 July 2013 11:02 am
Citizens and expatriates alike in the Kingdom are feeling the pinch of ban on beef imports from Brazil since last December, with prices shooting up by as much as 40 percent since the ban. Brazil was the largest supplier of beef to the Kingdom up until the ban was imposed.
The high price of beef is a cause of concern for everyone during Ramadan, when demand rises. Following the ban on Brazilian beef, India has emerged as the largest supplier of meat followed by Australia, but the combined supplies from these two countries still falls short of demand, leading to prices shooting up.
With traders also seeking to hoard beef stock to meet demand during Ramadan, prices have spiraled on a regular basis particularly in the case of Indian beef, which is similar to the Brazilian kind with less fat, while the Australian beef has more fat content.
In bulk trading, an 18-kg carton of beef, which was selling at SR 270 prior to the Brazil ban, is now being sold at SR 370. It was priced at SR 340 until a few days ago.
Beef is widely used during Ramadan by Saudi families in the form of mince for a variety of dishes including “samosa” and “kebabs.”
The price of mince or ground beef has doubled now in the wholesale market with an 8-kg carton holding 20 400-gram packs each selling at SR 35 against SR 20 earlier.
Beef is also used in “kabsa” and “ruz bukhari.” For many expats, beef is the main course dish in dinners, as also in food served by employers in larger contracting companies. This is an addition to regular usage of beef in meals and burgers.
During the holy month, many Saudi individuals provide “kabsa” with beef to expatriate laborers through mosques, which will now cost them much more.
Many retailers, catering companies and restaurants in the Kingdom are having a tough time procuring beef. They are also worried about the high cost eating into their profits.
A Sudanese manager of a popular chain of restaurants told Arab News that the high beef price was a matter of concern. “I am willing to pay a high price for beef but the problem is that there are not enough quantities in the market when you need it most,” he said.
An Indian executive, who runs a catering company supplying food to over 2,000 employees in Rabigh, told Arab News on condition of anonymity that the high price of beef was indeed worrisome for catering companies involved in supplying food to contracting companies.
Alam Zaib Khan, an executive with a company dealing in in frozen products, said: “The market is volatile now with demand far outstripping supplies. With only two countries supplying beef, it is indeed a problem faced by many. Such is the demand for beef that I sold two containers of beef within 12 hours of its arrival in Jeddah.”
Interestingly, the increase in beef price has resulted in shawarma shops cutting down on the quantity of beef stuffing. That is indeed food for thought.