Algerian Consumers, Firms Start To Feel Import Bans
Mansour used to buy Swiss chocolate for his daughter but in the past few days it disappeared from the shelves after Algeria’s government banned imports of hundreds of products.
At the start of this year, authorities banned the import of 851 products including foodstuffs and some raw materials in an effort to address a gaping trade deficit.
While browsing the Ardis mall in the capital Algiers with his wife and six-year-old daughter, Mansour said he felt the brunt of the import ban.
“I don’t find the products that I used to find before. We noticed that the prices of local products increased, compared to the past. I think the reason is the absence of competition. They seized this opportunity to raise prices and to monopolise the market,” he said.
Officials say the restrictions will encourage domestic production, protecting it from foreign competition.
But local firms including drinks producers and potters are complaining, saying shortages of raw materials put their businesses at risk.
Ardis, which opened its doors in 2012 and is the largest mall in the country, attracts consumers every day because of the wide range of local and imported consumer goods it stocks.
That range has now been reduced, though Walid Allouni, the mall’s store manager, played down the change.
“The direct impact of this decision, which was taken without consultation with the concerned people, might lead to products no longer available on the market. We also risk having a reduction in the quantity that will be available on the market. Some (importers) are worried; they are worried about the future of their businesses, they worry that they may have to shut down,” said president of the Association of Algerian Producers of Beverages, Ali Hamani.
But many local firm managers are worried and feel that the restrictions may only add pressure on them, leading to a possible collapse of their business because of declining stocks of raw materials.
Strikes and protests occur in Algeria almost daily, echoing social and economic grievances.