‘Fesikh’ and Herring economics

Every year, Egyptians celebrate Easter, marking the start of the spring season. As per the traditions of this day, they eat salted fish (known as ‘Fesikh’) and smoked fish (‘Herring’). Can ‘Fesikh’ support the economy?
By Markets Chimp

4/11/18 1:16 PM

Mahmoud Gad, CMA

Egyptians’ spending on Fesikh and Herring in Easter …

According to a study published by “AlArabiya.Net” in April 2017, Egyptians spend about EGP18 billion on salted and smoked fish during the spring and Easter. This means a consumption per capita of about EGP200 (c.USD11) on this kind of food during this season of each year. This amount represented about 1.5% of total expected expenditures of the state budget for fiscal year 2017-2018. This comes despite continued warnings by doctors from eating such meals because of their possible negative impact on health. On the other hand, you should not be surprised if you found many of these same doctors eat Fesikh and Herring with their families and friends in Easter!

Moreover, the relatively higher prices of these kinds of food may also put pressure on the budgets of low-income households, leading them to buy other cheap kinds from unknown sources, which in turn can cause many poisoning cases. It is worthy to mention that the price of Fesikh (made of flathead grey mullet) exceed EGP120 per kilogram, i.e. about double the price of flathead grey mullet. Meanwhile, the price of herring may exceed EGP40 per kilogram.


… an infection that spreads out during this season of each year …

Considered an old habit that Egyptians have inherited from their ancestors, eating these kinds of food in Easter has become like an addiction for many people today. As an Egyptian myself, when I crave for Fesikh and Herring on any given day, I do not settle down until I eat them. Although this makes me feel happy at the moment, I usually feel regret after finishing my meal -- exactly like the junkie after taking a dose of drugs. For this reason, you may find many Egyptians eating Fesikh and Herring in Easter. They do not do this in celebration of the occasion, but they simply follow their appetite in doing so. Some people cannot resist when they see Fesikh and Herring sold in the market. They feel the urge to buy these products -- both for themselves and as gifts to others, and -- even more -- they invite each other to have Fesikh for dinner.

And so, it spreads out among people like a virus. Can you imagine that I saw the staff of a KFC restaurant in my neighborhood sitting in the corner of one of the nearby cafes during Easter and leaving spicy fried chicken with ketchup, French fries, and cabbage salad mixed with carrot and mayonnaise “coleslaw salad" only to eat Fesikh and Herring with onions and lettuce!


… and recovers sales in fish markets …

Like any seasonal commodity, fish sellers wait closely for this season to compete with one another in order to meet the high demand for these kinds of food, especially those sellers specialized in Fesikh (so-called “Feskhani”).

My dearest reader, I am not exaggerating when I tell you that you may find it rather difficult to buy what you need from these “Feskhani” shops due to high demand and compared to weak demand in the rest of the year. It may even require you to put your order ahead of time before the start of the season. I am not talking here only about domestic demand, but some of the Fesikh producers do export it abroad, especially to Arab countries, as demand for these products comes primarily from Egyptians living abroad. What really impressed me was an article that I read on Al-Ahram Gate about an Egyptian young man who has opened three shops for Feskih in the United Arab Emirates after obtaining the necessary permits and following health requirements in the country.


… However, the cost of its diseases is high and may lead to death

Salted and smoked fish, like any food product, may result in health problems if it is manufactured in a non-conforming way. So, they must be obtained from reliable sources and must be handled with caution and in accordance to doctors' instructions. How many rotten tons of Fesikh are seized and how many poisoning cases are taken to hospitals on this day each year, which may lead to death! The mortality rate from Feskih poisoning is 16% in adults. The cost of one bottle of anti-poisoning is about EGP70,000, and a person may need three bottles, implying that recovery from such poisoning may cost the government about EGP210,000 per individual.

Last but not least, the question remains: Can we see a regulated market that supports the manufacturing of Fesikh products and other products that Egypt is famous for, with new and creative ideas that support the Egyptian economy?


Sources: Al Arabia Net, Al Masry Al Youm, Al Ahram Gate

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