Written by 7:28 pm Economy

Rising concerns of food insecurity after  custom duty increase on Moroccan vegetables

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Starting from January 2, 2024, the Mauritanian Customs Border Office decided to raise clearance tariffs on imported vegetables from Morocco.

Fruits and other goods are exempt from this new decision.

As a result, the customs clearance cost for a large truck’s cargo has risen significantly, from 1,600 euros to more than 4,600 euros.

This jump, which represents a 171% increase in customs taxes, disrupted the flow of trucks delivering products between Morocco and Mauritania, at a time when the Kingdom has already restricted its vegetable imports to fellow African nations, in an attempt to curb rising domestic prices.

The Mauritanian government’s motives

This decision comes as the Mauritanian government plans to adopt a new policy aimed at reaching self-sufficiency in vegetable production within the country.

It seeks to encourage citizens to cultivate and strengthen domestic output in terms of vegetables, a trusted source from the Mauritanian Finance Ministry tells Mauritanian news outlet Anbaa Info.

Mauritanian Minister of Economy Abdessalam Ould Mohamed emphasized the importance of “periodically protecting local production.”

“We have the right to protect our production seasonally when there is strong competition and risks of losses. We are re-entering the production of horticultural products, and we must continue to support our young entrepreneurs,” defends the Mauritanian Minister.

Heavy potential cost on Mauritania 

The surge in customs duties on Moroccan vegetables can harm citizens by causing an increase in the prices, “exacerbating the hardships faced by Mauritanian consumers,” stated the Mauritanian Consumer Protection Forum (FMPC).

“We condemn this measure, as it adds to the burdens of consumers and further weakens their already strained purchasing power due to ongoing price increases, monopolies, and inflation,” highlighted the same source in a statement.

Itv Awa Mohamed from FMPC told RFI that Mauritania only produces 10% of its vegetable needs. “I believe this rationale doesn’t work economically,” he added.

In the same regard, EastFruit warned that the decision may have a detrimental effect on local residents. It can only “worsen the tragic plight of local residents who have already faced hunger.”

An increase in import tariffs on Moroccan produce can also, according to East Fruit, cause a rise in fruit and vegetable prices in Mauritania and other Sahel countries.

Morocco is a major provider of fruits and vegetables to Mauritania, with annual exports of 170,000 tons.

The decision could result in sharp price rises or product shortages in the region, added the same source.

“Moroccan vegetables are crucial for the Mauritanian market. They hold economic significance for Mauritania. Increased duties may impact the purchasing power of Mauritanians,” says Amine Sami, an economic expert, in a statement to Hespress EN

“Increase in custom duties imposed by Mauritania on Moroccan vegetables means that these products will cost more for Mauritanian consumers.”

“Higher prices may put additional pressure on the personal budgets of Mauritanian consumers,” he believes.

The expert said that the real impact of this increase “depends on the extent of Mauritanian consumers’ reliance on imported Moroccan vegetables.”

As to the impact of this decision on Morocco, Sami told Hespress EN that this increase “may reduce profit margins for Moroccan exports.”

He further commented that this decision “will ultimately lead to a reduction in the volume of Moroccan vegetable exports to Mauritania.”

This is because the increased costs for Mauritanian consumers and the loss of price competitiveness for Moroccan vegetables in the Mauritanian market would have a negative impact on demand, explained the expert in a statement to Hespress EN.

Rumored decision reversal, debunked: 

Contrary to recent news circulating, reliable professional sources from Mauritania have refuted the rumors of the Mauritanian authorities reversing their decision to raise customs duties on imported vegetables and fruits from the Kingdom through the El Guerguarate border crossing.

The same source told Hespress AR that the decision remains in effect, despite Mauritanian importer’s demands, stressing that “professionals in both countries are upset by this decision, as it will harm their commercial activities.”

The same speaker said that the Nouakchott decision to increase customs duties on Moroccan vegetable imports “was a reaction to a similar ban on exporting certain vegetables to African markets, prompting the Mauritanian government to seek alternative suppliers to ensure food security for its citizens.”

Morocco-Mauritania trade in numbers:

According to figures published by the economic department within Morocco’s embassy in Nouakchott in November 2023, Imports from Morocco constitute nearly 50% of Mauritania’s total imports from the African continent, contributing over 73% to Mauritania’s imports from Maghreb countries.

Approximately 80% of Morocco’s exports to Mauritania were comprised of food and agricultural products, manufactured goods, as well as transportation machinery and equipment. Vegetables and fruits alone constitute around 20% of export volume.

Trade exchanges between Morocco and Mauritania surged in 2022 to reach a value of $300 million, a staggering 58% growth compared to 2020.

“This upturn in the volume and value of trade further solidifies Morocco’s position as the primary supplier to the Mauritanian market within Africa,” said the embassy in a statement.

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