Home Morocco Angry Consumers Launch Campaign to Protest Steep Rise in Commodity Prices

Angry Consumers Launch Campaign to Protest Steep Rise in Commodity Prices

Boycotted Sidi Ali Opens Doors for Customers to Inspect its Alleged Dried Water Sources

By Sana Elouazi and Zoubida Senoussi

Rabat – #Let_it_spoil (Khlih Yerib), has gone viral on Moroccan social media, as a vast number of Moroccan citizens take a stance against the high prices of some products, including Sidi Ali (mineral water), Central Laitière (dairy products) and Afriquia, a subsidy of the Akwa Group.

Online protesters have taken to Twitter and Facebook, creating pages to raise awareness of the “exorbitant” prices of the three companies, denouncing the vast price margin compared to other brands selling the same products.

The activists launched the electronic campaign using videos, pictures, and memes to boycott the three companies, three weeks before the beginning of Ramadan.

Read Also: Compensation Fund: Government Works on Subsidy Reform to Lessen Budget Burden

“The campaign started among young Moroccans, especially those who can’t afford to pay more. They came up with the idea of boycotting, and they boycotted these three main products of the market,” Oussama Aslan Chakir, Founder of Casa Bel Visa Facebook page told Morocco World News.

“We hope that Moroccan news sources report on the boycott and let the world know about the differences in prices that Moroccans suffer from due to these companies,” added the founder, who has been encouraging people to join the movement.

“Those companies don’t care about the oppressed citizens who are fighting for a living. If they could sell air to the citizens, they would do it in a heartbeat,” said one consumer on Twitter.

“We have the solution to lift this injustice, the solution is easy: cut off the products of greedy companies!” The process is very easy; you only need to move awareness to wake up people,” a Moroccan journalist wrote on his Facebook account.

Boycott: A Mere Social Movement or a Political Settlement?

While some believe that this campaign comes as a direct result of denouncing the high cost of living–especially ahead of Ramadan, which witnesses a high peak consumption demands of dairy products–others opposed the boycott, asserting that this call is essentially a settlement of political accounts rather than an outburst of popular anger.

Moroccan media outlets, such as the Arabic daily Al Ahdath Al-Maghribiya, claimed that this campaign, which will run for over a month, is facade for a deeper political manipulation, orchestrated by what they have termed an “electronic army” close to Abdelilah Benkirane, former head of the Moroccan government and former Secretary General of the Justice and Development Party (PJD).

This army, they say, is directed against the Moroccan billionaire Aziz Akhannouch, the owner of Akwa Group and Secretary General of the National Rally of Independents Party (RNI), in response to the “governmental blockage” following the October 2016 elections.

Read Also: Ramid Denies Rumors of Government Meeting Boycott by RNI

In the aftermath of October 2016 elections, Benkirane failed to form a new government after the RNI, the PJD’s former ally, imposed a condition that would require the inclusion two additional political parties before the RNI would sign on.Benkirane refused the condition at the time, eventually resulting in his suspension as Morocco’s head of government.

“We must not delude ourselves about the person targeted by this campaign. Centrale Danone and Holmarcom group act as sparring partners in a campaign aimed directly at Aziz Akhannouch,” a source from Akwa Group told the French speaking outlet H24info.

“Our prices are among the lowest in the market. Unfortunately, a lot of pictures of price billboards in Afriquia gas stations, that circulated on social networks, were manipulated with the purpose to mislead public opinion,” the same source added.

Moreover, Benkirane had previously called on Moroccans to boycott Danone products for ten days at a political rally that took place on May 24, 2014, after the French-based company, Centrale laitière, raised the price of its yogurt. His move was described by the Washington Post as “an attempt to demonstrate his own sympathy for the everyday struggles of the Moroccan people in the absence of the ability to enact reforms that actually address these challenges.”

Read Also: Benkirane Uses Power to Boost His Party’s Rating: American Scholar

Mounir Bensaleh, the president of Anfass Democratic movement, told the media outlet LeSiteInfo, that the idea of boycott is an effective and universal weapon, “except in this case, as boycotting products belonging to certain politicians, in particular, shows that political intentions lie beneath.”

“Involving the high cost of consumer products in settling political accounts is totally absurd,” Bensalah said, lambasting the governments of Benkirane and Saad El Othmani as solely responsible for the high cost of the products following the liberalization of prices, which allowed large companies to dominate the market.

According to Abdellatif Jouhari, the chairman of Bank al-Maghrib, energy costs for Moroccans have also risen due to the liberalization of oil pricing policies and the lifting of subsidies, which allowed the per-liter cost to vary with market trends.

During a press conference held in June 2017,  Lahcen Daoudi, Minister of General Affairs and Governance, stated that “citizens do not take advantage of the liberalization” of hydrocarbon prices enacted in December 2015 under a compensation fund reform, which was introduced by the previous government.

The campaign also targets Meriem Bensalah Chekroun, former president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM) and who is currently the General Manager of Oulmès Mineral Waters, a subsidiary of the family holding company Holmarcom, which she joined in 1990.

Read Also: Miriem Bensaleh-Chaqroun leaves CGEM’s Office in May

“We are well aware of this campaign and we don’t know how it started. When it comes to the price of water bottles, it is the same for all the brands. We don’t know why consumers chose to get at us and not at the other brands,” Brahim El Mekroumi, Head of Research and Development Department of Sidi Ali- Oulmès told MWN.

The communication departments of both Centrale Laitière and Akwa Group did not reply to MWN’s requests for comment.

On Tuesday, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mohamed Boussaid, strongly denounced the boycott campaign during a parliamentary session, stating,“we must encourage business and Moroccan products, unlike these bewildered [people] who call for boycotting Moroccan companies that are structured [to] employ citizens and pay their taxes.”

His comment sparked a wave of criticism on social networks from the “bewildered” online activists.

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