Protest hits phosphate supply to Morocco’s OCP: source

RABAT (Reuters) – Jobless protesters blocked a railway line in Morocco for a fourth day on Tuesday, forcing the state phosphate monopoly to use trucks to supply its plants, a source familiar with the matter said.

The rail link runs between phosphate mines in the town of Youssoufia and chemical plants in the city of Safi operated by the Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), a state-owned monopoly that is Morocco’s top export earner.

“They have so far caused the equivalent of two or three days of delay in supplying OCP plants in Safi with raw phosphates from the mines in Youssoufia, which are not OCP’s biggest,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.

The Safi complex can produce up to 400,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid and fertilizers.

“OCP’s plants in Safi now have enough stocks to cover the needs of a couple of days but they are using trucks until the situation is resolved,” the source said.

Dozens of protesters occupied the railway line over the weekend in Youssoufia, east of Safi, to press OCP to give them jobs.

The same week, Moroccan security forces used truncheons, tear gas and water cannon on protesters demanding jobs to bring under control a third day of riots in the central Khouribga region, home to OCP’s biggest phosphate mines.

Riots broke out in March in the same province and OCP said then that registered applicants would be given training courses within a few weeks.

Last week, an OCP spokesman said the number of applicants exceeded 36,000. The company was providing 5,800 jobs immediately and would give paid training to an additional 15,000 before enrolling them.

Morocco has the world’s biggest phosphate reserves and is a key supplier of fertilisers and phosphoric acid.

OCP’s Safi complex on the Atlantic coast produces only a fraction of the monopoly’s overall chemical and fertiliser output compared to its Jorf Lasfar complex, one of the world’s biggest chemical-producing sites.

Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment, and an OCP spokesman declined to comment.

Unemployment in Morocco officially stands at around 9 percent, rising to 18 percent among graduates and 33 percent among Moroccans aged below 35.

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