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Tunisia: President pledges to fight bread monopoly

August 19, 2023 at 11:43 am

People wait in a queue in front a bakery in Tunis, Tunisia on August 01, 2023. [ Yassine Gaidi – Anadolu Agency ]

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday vowed to fight all monopolists behind the bread and grain crisis in the country, Anadolu Agency reported.

In a statement, Anadolu Agency disclosed that Saied met with his prime minister and other senior ministers to discuss the crisis plaguing the country since the outbreak of COVID.

“The state will not stay idle,” Saied declared: But it will fight all the monopolists and speculators and purge the country of those who snuck into this industry and became an obstacle ahead of achieving the needs of the people.”

He added: “The crisis of bread and grain is not real and must not be repeated at the beginning of the school year… Some people are planning for it from now and some are preparing for other crises.”

READ: Tunisia: Bakeries to relaunch protests over halt in flour supply

On Thursday, Tunisian authorities arrested Mohamed Bouanane, head of the National Chamber of Bakery Owners, on suspicion of monopoly and speculation of subsidised foodstuffs and money laundering.

This came after the Tunisian government earlier this month banned the sale of subsidised flour to 1,500 privately owned bakeries that produce European-style bread and pastries.

In response to the ban, hundreds of bakers went on strike and staged a sit-in to protest the decision they say will put them out of work.

On Monday, Saied dismissed Director-General of the Grain Bureau Bashir Al-Kathiri and replaced him with Salwa Bin Hadid. The Grain Bureau is the institution in charge of supplying Tunisian and imported grains to the local market.

In a statement, Saied called on the Justice Ministry to file lawsuits against those: “Monopolising the distribution of grain and other consumer goods.”

Tunisians have been standing in long queues at bakeries across the country to buy bread, which has become a rare commodity amid a flour shortage.

Tunisia has been struggling with a growing food emergency due to devastating economic and social crises since Saied’s 2021 power grab.

READ: Tunisia president dismisses head of grain office amid escalating bread crisis