Tunisian wheat shortage drags on, threatening bakeries

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Rising temperatures, intensifying drought, and an economic crisis is continuing to take a toll on Tunisian citizens. Bakery owners in particular are struggling to keep their businesses afloat, according to The National News.

Six months ago, husband and wife Chokri and Saadia, started selling malawi – a thin flatbread made of very fine semolina- out of their home in Tunis. Now, they are struggling to produce enough malawi to keep their children from being hungry. Chokri told The National, “We barely managed to get two 10 kg semolina bags yesterday.” 

Saadia added that they have only been able to purchase thick semolina, which is not ideal for producing malawi. “You have no idea the time and effort I need to put in order to turn the semolina we got to a fine one that we could use to work,” Saadia said, showing blisters on her hand caused by kneading bread for an entire day.

READ: Tunisian president takes stand against bread crisis instigators

Bakers are having to get creative in order to stay open, Chokri shared that a friend of his told him he “had to resort to soaking couscous in water overnight and adding the small amount of semolina they got in the morning to keep his business going.” 

Chokri and Saadia’s bakery is just one of many facing the reality of closure– Ridha Touil, who owns bakeries in El Aouina and Ben Arous, told The National that one of his bakeries would close its doors within two days due to the lack of supplies. He added that he knows of “at least three bakeries that have already closed down since they ran out of flour…that creates pressure on the ones that are still working, leading them to close as well.”

READ: Tunisia’s fragile finances amidst bread crisis

Speaking to the recent comments President Kais Saied made about the culprits of the bread crisis being “known parties,” Saadia stated “Honestly, if the President cannot find a solution to the situation, who else is supposed to?…They [officials] need to understand that the citizen is their responsibility … we are tired of their empty words.” Saadia said.

Though the Tunisian government recently received a temporary loan of $500 million from the African Export-Import Bank, they are still waiting on a bailout from the International Monetary Fund to alleviate the financial stress they are under.

The National News/Maghrebi


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