Ramadan in Morocco a month of charity but also of soaring food prices

Street vendors fill popular neighbourhoods’ streets, offering dates, traditional pancakes, handmade orange juices and fried fish.
Sunday 06/05/2018
A view of a market in the medina of Casablanca. (Saad Guerraoui)
Irresistible flavours. A view of a market in the medina of Casablanca. (Saad Guerraoui)

CASABLANCA - Every year before the holy month of Ramadan, the government seeks to reassure Moroccans about prices of heavily consumed products. But as price hikes are seemingly inevitable this time of year, the Interior Ministry has also set up a 24-hour phone line to receive complaints from traders and consumers regarding prices and supplies.

Lahcen Daoudi, the minister in charge of general affairs and governance, in April said the market would be supplied with food in a normal way during Ramadan.

“Moroccan markets will be supplied with all the necessary products and with reasonable prices during Ramadan, thanks in particular to a good rainy year,” said Daoudi, who led a meeting of the Interministerial Commission in charge of monitoring markets and control operations.

Daoudi called for “rigorous control” to avoid manipulation that runs counter to fair competition and harms consumers. Representatives of ministerial departments predicted that prices of most products would remain stable, given the abundance of supply.

Still, the High Commission for Planning revealed that 87% of Moroccan households said food prices had increased in the last 12 months and 83.4% said they expected a further increase over the next 12 months.

The holy month coincides with a boycott on social networks of leading Moroccan brands accused of raising prices of products, including milk made by Centrale Laitiere.

In the past, many merchants have taken advantage of Ramadan — and a lack of control — to raise prices as consumption peaks. Some food, such as eggs, fish and lentils, has been subject to significant price increases.

Coffee shops invade the pavement with their chairs, pushing pedestrians to the roads amid a lack of law enforcement by local councils. They also remain open very late, drawing residents’ ire.

Some businesses illegally change their activities to selling pastry, especially Chebakia, which adorns every household’s iftar table. Street vendors fill popular neighbourhoods’ streets, offering dates, traditional pancakes,

freshly-prepared orange juices and fried fish.

Leisure and sports activities reach their climax before breaking fast. Some people choose fishing along the coast of Casablanca while others take advantage of the spare hours ahead of the sunset to practise sports.

The clock goes back one hour behind British Summer Time during Ramadan to make it easier for Muslims to observe the fast.

Ramadan is also a month of piety, generosity and forgiveness during which volunteers and NGOs provide iftar for the needy. Public schools turn into large gatherings for free iftars and patients at public hospitals are also served.

Tents are erected in empty public spaces to receive worshippers for Tarawih prayers to ease the burden on packed mosques.

Quran reciting competitions for children and adults take place across Morocco. As for entertainment, the Ramadan tradition is that Moroccan families meet around the iftar table to break their fast together. Television screens are inundated with repeated adverts of companies’ products and services fighting to target their highest audience of the year.

Almost 70% of Moroccans watch national TV channels during Ramadan, said Marocmetrie, a television audience measuring service.

Ramadan can be a month of extravagance for those who prefer to break their fast at trendy restaurants or top hotels that offer endless food and desserts as part of expensive “eat as much as you like” menus.