Soaring meat prices stoke discontent in Sudan at Ramadan

Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:56am EDT
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By Ulf Laessing and Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - When Sudanese school teacher Abdelaziz Ibrahim enters a market in Khartoum to buy food for his family to break the fast in the Muslim month of Ramadan he doesn't even bother checking meat prices. There's no point - it's far too expensive.

"Food prices have gone up like crazy. We can rarely afford meat anymore so we'll have to eat more vegetables," said Ibrahim, who bought tomatoes and beans after checking prices at several makeshift stands for a long time.

"This is the worst Ramadan we've ever had," said the teacher, who needs to feed six children, his wife and his mother at his home in north Khartoum.

Food prices always go up across Muslim countries during Ramadan when people like to enjoy long evening meals, or iftars. But in Sudan, an economic crisis exacerbated by the loss of three-quarters of its oil wealth after arch-foe South Sudan became independent a year ago has made things even worse.

Faced with a gaping budget deficit due to the loss, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has unveiled austerity measures that have sparked small demonstrations.

In Khartoum and other large cities the protests have petered out after a security crackdown and the start of Ramadan when most people stay indoors all day. Sudanese activists estimate more than 1,000 people were detained before that since June, though the figures are impossible to verify.

Protests have so far been much smaller than those seen in Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen with mainly students, lawyers and intellectuals demanding an end to Bashir's 23-year rule.

Bashir has dismissed the protests as insignificant. But rising food prices risk upsetting a larger number of people at a time when people like to socialize all night after fasting.   Continued...