The rise in the price of basic commodities - such as semolina and flour - due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused many families in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya to rush to stock up their pantries. The citizens of these Maghreb countries, which import vast quantities of foodstuffs derived from Russian and Ukrainian wheat, are worried about the rising prices less than half a month before the start of Ramadan.
In recent weeks, fluctuations in the price of raw materials on the international market have put the Rabat government in check, as many basic foodstuffs have seen their costs multiply, especially affecting the lower classes of society. A class that, as if that were not enough, was still coping with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, with Ramadan on the horizon, Morocco has announced the introduction of measures to protect its citizens' purchasing power and guarantee supplies during the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. This year, 2022, the Ramadan period will run from 2 April to 2 May, and, as every year, the Muslim faithful will fast from sunrise to sunset, when it is traditional to gather with family and friends and enjoy lavish meals.
Faced with this scenario, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, after meeting with the ministers of his government coalition: the Independent National Rally (RNI), the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) and the Istiqlal Party (PI), declared that he was making "great efforts" to keep prices stable. Akhannouch further stated that Rabat might even subsidise a number of "basic goods and services whose prices have risen considerably on the international market".
Among the measures adopted, the Prime Minister underlined the creation of joint regional committees made up of representatives of local authorities and the Ministries of the Interior, Industry, Trade and Health, which will be responsible for monitoring price fluctuations and the quality of foodstuffs. In this scenario of rising prices for basic goods, these committees are intended to prevent speculators from controlling the market.
Riad Mazour, Minister of Industry and Trade, explained that since the beginning of the year, more than 65,000 monitoring operations have been carried out, and nearly 5,000 violations have been found in the markets. "The government will do its duty to reduce speculation in order to lessen the burden on the purchasing power of citizens," Mazour promised. "We cannot accept monopoly and price fixing," agreed Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forestry Mohamed Al-Siddiqi in the same vein.
In fact, as Akhannouch argued, the constant monitoring of all foodstuffs - and, in particular, four or five products selected for their potential increase in price - has shown "stability in the prices of many goods, although others are affected by the international context".
"Many of the subsidised products, such as sugar and wheat, have not changed in price, while other non-subsidised products are being monitored so as not to be monopolised in the market," said the Minister of Economy and Finance, Nadia Fattah Alawi.
In terms of supply guarantees, all officials agreed that supply will not be a problem for the country in the coming weeks. "Despite the increase in the consumption of certain basic foodstuffs during Ramadan, the supply of these products is assured in all regions of Morocco," said Riad Mazour.
"The market supply will be sufficient in terms of raw materials, especially grains, vegetables, pulses (lentils, chickpeas and beans), milk, and all animal products such as red and white meat, eggs and seafood," said Mohamed Al-Siddiqi.
Rabat's decision thus comes on top of plans adopted by the government in May 2021, when the authorities revised the wages of certain groups of workers, implemented new and more appropriate fiscal policies and sought to ensure price stability. All this despite the announcement of limitations on government subsidies and aid to finance commodities last summer. A project that has its sights set on 2024, when it is hoped that the total discontinuation of subsidies will not affect Moroccans' purchasing power.