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With Ramadan around the corner, the quality of the flour consumed in Morocco is at the heart of an acrimonious arms-wrestling between Moroccan bakers and millers.
The Moroccan Federation of Bakeries and Pastry Shops (FNBP) has said that the flour used in Morocco is unfit for human consumption. Dismayed by the comments, millers have suggested they are the victims of exaggeration and over-generalization.
Mohamed El Giri, the president of the FNBP, lifted the bitter debate to its highest point when he said this week that “the flour consumed by Moroccans is not even suitable as fodder for livestock.”
El Giri’s comments earned the wrath of the National Federation of Flour Mills (FNM), who has threatened to take legal action against what they consider as wildly inaccurate and “defamatory allegations.”
In statements to a local outlet, FNM Director-General Abdellatif Izem took issue with FNBP’s “irresponsible” remarks. “If the flour was not good, Moroccans would not buy it,” he said. While he conceded that “some problems occur in storage,” he was adamant that such problems, which are mainly “due to humidity,” are not the direct responsibility of millers.
He added that Morocco’s “flour manufacturing industry has laboratories and flour is produced only if it meets all the standards. There are 15 types of flour and the quality differs from one product to another. If a problem occurs in one place, we should not generalize.”
But Izem’s defense did not impress El Giri, who maintained in an interview with the same local outlet that it is well-documented that a number of Moroccan mills sell “outdated flour.”
According to El Giri, previous reports by both the Moroccan Court of Auditors and the National Office of Sanitary Safety of Food Products (ONSSA) had established “the existence of repeated violations of the standards of enrichment of food for high consumption.” Moroccan millers’ use of “soft wheat and durum wheat products enriched with iron do not meet the standards provided by law,” he argued.
He also proposed the importation of flour as one way to solve Morocco’s issue of low-quality flour. “Since Morocco imports 50% of cereals, we propose to the State to import flour instead of cereals because its quality will be better, and its cost will be lower,” he said.
The controversy comes just over a week before Ramadan, the Islamic holy month when consumption of bread and other wheat and cereal-based food typically increases.
It remains to be seen how Moroccan authorities and the society at large will react to the ongoing controversy between bakers and millers. In the meantime, though, this is hardly the first time that the quality of Moroccan flour has been called into question.
In 2014, Morocco’s Minister of Public Affairs and Governance, Mohammed El Ouafa, sparked a similar controversy when he said that the bread consumed in Morocco is “bad for the health of Moroccans.”
Most recently, earlier this year, Morocco’s Federation of Consumer Rights (FMDC) announced it had identified carcinogenic products in Moroccan bread.
Ringing alarm bells about the quality of cereals used in Morocco, FMDC especially took issue with the use of fiber-free flour in the production of bread and the lack of rigorous quality control used by millers.