Spice prices: the informal continues to rain and shine

According to Inter Epices, the rise in the price of spices on the eve of Ramadan is a consequence of the surge in international prices, following the increase in the cost of transport and the scarcity of these products.

As with many consumer products, the price of spices increases on the eve of Ramadan and during the holy month. This market, which weighs nearly 1 billion dirhams in turnover, is 70% dominated by the informal sector. According to an operator in the sector, a member of FICOPAM, around thirty factories specializing in ground chilli have shut down because of this phenomenon which is plaguing the sector. The stakes are high when we know that the Moroccan market consumes some 54,000 tonnes annually, all spices combined.

The spice sector still lives under the heavy shadow of the informal sector and imports. This market is a real goose with golden eggs since spices are the secret of all the dishes of the Moroccan housewife. According to Jamal Bachiri, general manager of Inter Epices, a member company of the Federation of Industries for the Conservation of Agricultural Products of Morocco (FICOPAM), the supply of the national market in spices is 80% covered by imports, exception of the ground chilli which is produced locally. The sector was nevertheless somewhat saved from the grip of smuggling after the closure of the borders of Sebta and Melilla. Despite this, the equation is far from being solved for a market that weighs one billion DH in turnover. Indeed, indicates Bachiri, the activity is not imposed on the logistical level and is dominated at 70% by the informal sector. According to him, barely 30% of operators are structured today and have their own truck fleets. The spices produced by the latter are mainly marketed in supermarkets, and must meet the requirements of these structures with regard to the traceability of the products put on the shelves.

The marketed jackpot is thus designated by the informal sector without branding or traceability. Worse still, “several operators who are active in the informal sector indulge in fraudulent mixtures which harm the health of consumers. We thus draw the attention of the National Office for Food Safety (ONSSA) to intervene urgently. Bulk must be withdrawn from the market,” warns the boss of Inter Epices. The informal steamroller is all the more dangerous, according to Bachiri, as it has even pushed structured operators to put the key under the doormat. “We were 12 factories producing ground chilli. Today, only one has been able to survive, it is based in Berkane. All of these units have gone down the drain because of the surge in sweatshops in the Beni-Mellal region. The latter do not pay taxes or social contributions”, regrets the operator who in passing calls on the authorities to intervene urgently to put an end to this anarchy which is plaguing the sector.

Prices soar with Ramadan

Consumption of spices on the Moroccan market is dominated by ground chilli with 20,000 tonnes marketed per year. Black pepper comes second with 10,000 tons. The rest is ginger, cumin and turmeric, the market of which absorbs around 8,000 tonnes per year for each spice. According to Bachiri, some 54,000 tons of all spices are marketed each year. That is a turnover of more than 800 million DH. In this table, structured operators hold 30% of the market. On the eve of Ramadan, spices are in high consumption. As a result, prices soar. For Bachiri, the rise in the prices of these products is a consequence of the surge in international prices following the increase in the cost of transport. Likewise, he explains, spices are experiencing a lean period in the world market, as several countries have not grown enough of them. Their rarity therefore strongly spiced up the prices.

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