Tunisia: How Subsidy Cuts Affect Bakers

The protests by Tunisian bakers over the government’s decision to cut off the supply of subsidised flour are becoming intense.

Development Diaries reports that the Tunisian ministry of commerce had last week, banned 1,500 privately-owned bakeries that produced European-style breads and pastries from purchasing subsidised flour, which ended a practice that had lasted for more than a decade.

Around 200 bakers took part in a sit-in outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Commerce in Tunis to protest the closure of more than 1,500 of their bakeries.

Reports indicate that the bakers’ group has hinted that the protest movement will be spread over a period of 15 days.

Available data from a World Bank report shows that Tunisia has been going through a severe financial crisis.

According to the report, Tunisia’s economic recovery was slow in 2022 due to regulatory barriers to growth and rising global energy and food prices.

Numerous issues have impacted the country’s economy, including a larger trade deficit and consumer subsidies.

This has resulted in regular shortages of staples like sugar, milk, and rice, as well as an increasing inflation rate of 9.8 percent.

A multibillion-dollar budget imbalance and increasing international debt payments caused the government to stop providing subsidised flour to hundreds of private bakeries last week, setting up strikes and protests.

Months of bread shortage in the North African nation have resulted in lengthy lines outside bakeries.

Figures from the African Development Bank (AfDB) also show that Tunisia harvests an average of 1.5 million tonnes of cereals yearly for the last decade, against a national consumption requirement of 3.4 million tonnes.

From all indications, the situation seems similar to the 1984 bread riots in the country which were triggered by a rise in the price of bread due to an IMF-imposed austerity programme.

The riots were a series of violent demonstrations in the North African nation. If not handled properly, this situation might lead to the same outcome.

Development Diaries calls on the government of Tunisia to come up with measures to contain the growing discontent as bread remains an indispensable staple in the daily lives of Tunisians.

Photo source: Fethi Belaid/AFP


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