Sugar Shortage Darkens Tunisian Eid Festivities:

Scarcity Casts a Shadow Over Sweet Tunisian Tradition

In downtown Tunis, long queues snake out of supermarkets as dozens wait patiently to purchase a precious commodity – sugar. With Eid al-Fitr just days away, this essential ingredient for traditional sweets marking the end of Ramadan is being rationed to just one or two kilograms per customer per week.

“I never imagined we’d see the day when Tunisians would have to line up to buy sugar,” laments Lamia Bouraoui, 58, as she waits her turn. Like other staples, sugar is subsidized by the state, but dwindling public funds have led to scarcities of this and other culinary basics like flour and semolina since late 2022.

Across North Africa, families prepare copious amounts of sweets and pastries for Eid, treats often lasting days. “Without enough sugar, we’re deprived of this pleasure this year,” Bouraoui adds wistfully.

Some, like 40-year-old Sami, bring family members to increase their household’s ration. “One day we queue for flour, the next for semolina, then sugar,” he explains.

The shortage delivers a harsh blow to bakeries too. “We rely on sugar for everything,” says Chokri Bouajila, a pastry worker. “If we have sugar, we can work. Otherwise, we can’t do anything.” With declining purchasing power, his customers buy fewer and fewer of his traditional sweet creations.

For a country grappling with debt exceeding 80% of economic output, inflation ravaging incomes, and a third of its 12 million people below the poverty line, the sugar queues are emblematic of broader hardships.

“I’ve been here 35 minutes,” sighs Hassna, 40. “Why are we going through this? How did we get here?”

“Thank God we’re better off than our brothers in Gaza dying of hunger,” a philosophical voice beside her offers.

Some, like Nayla, seek a positive perspective: “Bitter coffee doesn’t bother me anymore,” she remarks, embracing healthier habits over lining up for sugar.

As Eid approaches, the scarcity casts a bittersweet pall, challenging a cherished tradition yet revealing resilience in the face of adversity.