Tunisia’s bakery union chief arrested amidst reported bread shortage

Tunisian officials have apprehended the leader of the national bakery owners’ union on charges of maintaining a “monopoly” as the country grapples with a prolonged scarcity of subsidized bread, as reported by local media on Thursday.

In August, the government instituted a ban on around 1,500 privately-owned bakeries that produce European-style bread and pastries, preventing them from acquiring subsidized flour and ending a practice that had been in place for over a decade.

Subsidies continue to be available for 3,737 bakeries affiliated with a separate network that sells bread at a price authorized by the government, a rate that has remained unaltered since 1984.

Mohamed Bouanane, the leader of the bakeries’ union, was apprehended on Wednesday over allegations of engaging in a monopoly, speculative activities involving subsidized food items, and money laundering, as stated by news sources within the North African nation.

On August 7, privately-owned bakeries initiated a strike and put forth demands to the commerce ministry, contending that discontinuing subsidies would result in the closure of several of these bakeries.

Earlier this week, President Kais Saied, who has consolidated extensive governing authority since his inauguration in 2021, removed the head of the Tunisian cereals authority from their position.

Economists informed media that the ongoing supply crisis originates from a deficiency in the stock of subsidized flour maintained by the heavily indebted Tunisian government.

Tunisians, who predominantly backed Saied’s assumption of power, are growing progressively disillusioned due to the escalating inflation and poverty rates.

The impact of these challenges extends to around 20 percent of the nation’s 12 million residents, government says.

The bread protests in Tunisia during 1983-1984 resulted in a toll of over 150 lives.

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