Report – Tomatoes, potatoes… the new luxury products
In the new Tunisia, the fight against monopoly and speculation, the fight against corruption, each passing day brings its share of shortages or soaring prices. After poultry and eggs, whose prices and availability vary from week to week, it is the turn of a fruit that is highly sought after and consumed by Tunisians; the tomato. A dish of chakchouka or ojja will now cost you around 20 dinars.
For the past few days, tomatoes have been scarce and their prices have reached stratospheric heights at the start of the week. A kilo of tomatoes is sold for between 3,600 and 4,000 dinars in the souks’ stalls and between 1,800 and 2,600 dinars in the municipal markets.
If the prices in the municipal markets are shown (the one of Ennasr deviates from the rule), outside on the displays, it is at the head of the customer and according to the quantity he wants to buy that the vegetable sellers decide. ” Continue ! I’ll give you a price! Only for you ! 3,600 dinars ma’am instead of 4,000 dinars! “, we are told at the entrance to the Ariana souk, not far from the thrift stores, on the morning of Tuesday, November 1, 2022.
The small price tags have disappeared on the tomato side. They only decorate peppers, bell peppers, onions and sometimes potatoes. All that is needed is a comment on the absence of these small pads – which, however, are required according to the current rules – to be exposed to a dark look.
This – inverse – delay between prices has an explanation. ” In addition to the lack of rainfall, the fault lies with the Business Ministry says one of the vegetable vendors at the Ariana municipal market. “ Those outside buy the tomatoes at 2,500 and sell them at twice their price to ensure a profit margin in the absence of price controls. And even when they carry out their supervision, the municipal services allow it “, he adds.
Our interlocutor buys his tomatoes for 2,500 and sometimes sells them at a loss if he manages to find some on the wholesale market in Tunis. “ On receipts, tomatoes are sold at 1,800 dinars per kilo as stated by the Ministry of Trade. But in real life we pay them 2,500 dinars per kilo “, he says before letting out a sigh.
Alongside, other vegetable sellers have preferred to close shop. ” If their shelves are empty, it’s because they haven’t bought anything. Onions alone sold for four dinars last week at the wholesale market. They would rather close than sell at a loss », explains our interlocutor.
The prices did not fail to shock. Some consumers have gone shopping for cherry tomatoes in the hope of finding a cheaper price. These are sold between one dinar and 1dt300 per hundred grams. The difference between prices within and outside the market was relatively reasonable. Large areas have a better offer. The main kilo of cherry tomatoes is sold for almost eight dinars. Hills are more expensive. The 200 gr ones are sold for more than four dinars.
Back to potatoes. LPrices are less exorbitant. A potato stew – because you can’t mash it for lack of milk and butter – remains affordable if you just prepare it without meat. Inside the municipal market in Ariana, potatoes are sold between 1,380 and 1,500 dinars per kilo. Outside, in the outdoor exhibits, total anarchy reigns. Prices follow a hidden curve and fluctuate between 2,800 and 2,900 dinars per kilo, while on the wholesale market they are sold at 2,500 dinars per kilo. ” Of course, the price shown on the receipts is only 1,350 dinars says our vegetable seller.
Two months ago, the Ministry of Trade issued a press release setting the prices of several raw materials. The wholesale price of potatoes was set at 1,350 dinars per kilo, and the retail at 1,500 dinars per kilo. Tomatoes were not yet subject to price regulation. The department had also called for respecting the set prices and taking into account citizens’ purchasing power.
These appeals evidently fell on deaf ears. Something that does not seem to bother the Ministry of Commerce, considering the prices that we admired on November 1, 2022. The department seems to bet on a conscience, decidedly crushed by the madness of gain in a context of multidimensional crisis. He prefers to warn with press releases against possible sanctions and urge citizens to rationalize their consumption instead of acting.