Coffee, sugar, rice… The series of shortages continues, what a solution.

Coffee, sugar, rice… The series of shortages continues, what solution?

After the fuel supply problems, it is currently about coffee. These problems affect several foodstuffs such as sugar, water, oil, rice, etc. The authorities are no longer able to ensure a normal supply of the country and wallow in silence, refusing to admit the reality of the situation to the Tunisians. This is normal given the exorbitant rise in world prices and the country’s lack of financial resources. Point.

Tunisians have noticed a shortage of coffee on the market for some time. Since then, the situation has escalated and the web has been overwhelmed with comments from Tunisians about the lack of this item. On Tuesday, August 23, 2022, the vice president of the National Chamber of Class A cafe owners, Sadri Ben Azouz, confirmed the information: There is indeed a crisis that has been going on for a while. Certainly, the Trade Office of Tunisia (OCT), which has the import monopoly for this item, said that an import is planned, but nothing concrete at the moment. This was explained by Mr. Ben Azouz at the microphone for Shems Maâk on Shems Fm on the same day.

Indeed, he pointed out that coffee owners across the country are facing coffee supply problems: they no longer find what they are looking for in roasters, who are experiencing a significant shortage of coffee types (Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, Exelsa, Blandinger, …) but also in terms of available quantities.

Sadri Ben Azouz pointed out that the OCT’s response to this supply disruption was not 100% clear and did not provide a convincing answer. So professionals do not know whether it is a story of errors in demand forecasts, where the OCT has referred to the figures for the Covid-19 years, or whether it is a matter of funding.

For the sector, it is a new blow after the supply and shortage crises that affected sugar, water and many other products whose use is recurring. To top it off, the situation has been made worse by the existence of speculators who take advantage of this kind of crisis.

In order not to run out of stock and to continue their activities, cafe owners had to buy a box of 10 kg of sugar for 40 dinars instead of 23 dinars during the sugar shortage. After the supply returns, it is of course difficult to find the prices before, he said.

For Sadri Ben Azouz, professionals will not be able to withstand a new crisis that has just emerged from Covid-19 with more injuries.

If the State is no longer able to import coffee to meet needs, the monopoly must be abolished. Rister has a lot of experience and they are good at doing it. To be sure, prices will rise because the compensation will be lifted. But at least we will find this item even at more expensive prices! “, he hammered.

He noted in this connection that prices have risen significantly recently and that the kilo of coffee is currently 14.5 dinars. And to clarify, Tunisians consume 30,000 tons of coffee per year.

According to him, the disaster scenario is a total collapse of coffee, which would lead to the closure of all businesses and the dismissal of the 120,000 employees in the sector. Therefore, a solution must be found, because if the situation continues, the problem will escalate and the sector will not be able to face a new crisis weakened by the pandemic.

Coffee prices for five years, according to Le Figaro

What is certain is that world market prices have more than doubled in three years. And that the country’s resources are at the same time very limited, and that the government finds itself prioritizing some things and rationing others, referring to confessions from Industry, Energy and Mines Minister Neila Nouira Gongi, who admitted that after the war in Ukraine, in terms of for compensation, priority was given to the import of cereals and especially to the import of wheat.

Last week, the country lived to the rhythm of problems with the fuel supply. The vice president of the National Trade Union Chamber of Service Station Managers and Owners, Ali Ben Yahia, had confirmed that there is an obvious shortage of supplies due to a drop in imports from the government. For example, only three or four of the forty kiosks in Sousse served fuel the day before, he said in response to a question from the host.

Mr. Ben Yahia talked about a drop in supply of about 90% and flatly confirmed that the gas stations are at risk of filing for bankruptcy due to the decrease in activity on the one hand and the decrease in the margin receiver on the other.

An episode that comes after the denial of the ministry on August 6, 2022, which confirmed that supply operations continued as normal and that the various oil products were available at filling stations throughout the territory.

Two days after Mr. Ben Yahia’s statements, the General Secretary of the General Federation of Petroleum and Chemical Products under the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), Salouen Smiri, revealed that two tankers had arrived at the port of Bizerte, on August 3, 2022. The state could 10 August make the financial settlement of the first load of unleaded petrol, which could therefore be unloaded, but could not do so for the second load, which is still at the quay in Bizerte.

Worse, Mr Smiri admitted that the government had to resort to the safety stock, which has been falling since June 2022 and is currently returning to its level. This stock should ideally be two months, but it has decreased and currently it is one month, he said. He believes that in September/October 2022, with the fall in the price of the barrel, we will return to the level of the two months.

Of course, other foods are missing: sugar, water, oil. The government is trying to quell the rumors by injecting sufficient amounts on time so as not to shout about the shortage, but insufficient to meet citizens’ demand. At the same time, the government is trying to steer public opinion against smokescreens: consumer frenzy and speculation.

Certainly, the government’s two arguments are valid, but do not explain the current situation and the lack of supply of different products. Because these two plagues have always existed, and governments before have, and shortages were rare, if not non-existent.

So what is the real reason for these supply cuts? At the beginning of last July, Business News questioned whether the government had prepared for the usual increase in summer consumption, given the influx of tourists and Tunisians living abroad. Given the current situation and with the lack of coffee, it does not appear.

It must be said that in Tunisia, since we have still not reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the state budget is still very tight. The government is thus working to rationalize all its expenditures, especially compensation, to better control prices, especially of administered products.

But the state’s priority is to secure food and, of course, salaries for civil servants. To this end, the government has made intensive use of domestic borrowing, as it has not raised funds abroad, except for a few loans and help to deal with rising food prices.

So back to the starting point: the real problem is the state’s lack of financial resources, in the face of unprecedented inflation and an exorbitant increase in the prices of food, raw materials and fuel, which began after the pandemic and which increased after the war in Ukraine.

Until Tunisia finds funding, shortages and supply problems will continue. Today, the government must be honest with the Tunisians, reveal to them the country’s real situation, so that they comply with the structural reforms. Regardless of the IMF’s will, the situation cannot continue. The country cannot continue to finance consumption and wages and must invest and change its economic model to move forward and improve. Initiation of the reforms will be crucial and, as the icing on the cake, will make it possible to have foreign financing, which is necessary for the functioning of the state.

Meanwhile NOUIRA

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