Cooking oil prices in Morocco have increased by MAD 2 per liter, leading many financially distressed and politically frustrated Moroccans to call for boycotting the “greedy” oil companies.
The 20% increase in prices happened suddenly and took consumers and retailers by surprise.
The holy month of the Islamic calendar is known in Morocco for its special traditional recipes, among other things. Iftar (breaking the fast) calls for family gatherings, while the last week of the holy month involve even larger gatherings in preparation of Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of breaking the fast). Home-made meals and store-bought goods are essential to both the iftar table at sunset and the festival meal.
On Facebook, people are calling for a boycott of cooking oils in retaliation against the sudden increase in prices.
“People have been struggling before the pandemic, the crisis has made things worse and the oil companies increased their prices by MAD 10, we are boycotting!” one comment said. Other comments affirm their willingness to boycott the oils in an attempt to drive down the demand and decrease the prices.
The boycotters argue that a large number of Moroccans have lost their jobs because of the pandemic and can barely afford to buy the basic necessities. For them, this sudden increase in oil prices is unbearable for Moroccans whose financial situation has been in shambles for the past couple of months.
The increase in oil prices could lead to the increase in prices of items containing oil, such as pastries, sweets, and all other baked goods.
Morocco World News (MWN) spoke with Rachida, a seller of Moroccan pastries and flatbreads (Msemen). Obviously lamenting the sudden price spike, Rachid ruefully told MWN she cannot increase the prices of her goods overnight, lest she lose her customers. “My clients would not buy Msemen that usually costs MAD 3 at a higher price” she said.
Unlike the oil companies, Rachida understands that many Moroccans are going through economic hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has put 1.6 Million Moroccans at risk of poverty, according to a joint report by the Moroccan High Commission for Planning (HCP), the World Bank, and the UN system in Morocco.
Exacerbating the country’s existing, systemic unemployment crisis, the pandemic especially harmed Moroccans who work in the informal sector, like Rachida, the report found.
Does this mean we are going to witness another boycott?
In 2018, many Moroccans took part in boycotting the unjustified price increase of large Moroccan multinational corporations.
Companies such as dairy firm Centrale Danone, mineral water brandSidi Ali and gasoline company AFRIQUIA GAZ suffered drastic losses because of the boycott.
According to Centrale Danone, a French dairy company, the boycott caused a profit decrease of €43 million.
Sidi Ali-Oulmes blamed the Moroccan taxation system for the increase of their prices.
Will oil companies rely on the same narrative once the majority of Moroccans join the increasing, but so far marginal, calls for boycott?
For now, meanwhile, most Moroccans already seem to harbor a deep distrust of “greedy” companies and “corrupt” authorities who they say do not care about the devastating impact the pandemic has had on their purchasing power.