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Morocco minister to resign after expressing sympathy for boycott group

Governance Minister Lahcen Daoudi will step down after showing solidarity with dairy workers boycotting French company
Lahcen Daoudi (AFP/file photo)

A Moroccan government minister will resign after coming under pressure for showing sympathy with a consumer boycott campaign targeting a top dairy brand, his party said on Wednesday.

Governance minister Lahcen Daoudi, of the co-ruling PJD Islamist party, is the first political casualty of the campaign that has forced dairy firm Centrale Danone, part of France's Danone, to cut production and lay off workers.

Moroccans mobilised online in April to boycott milk, water and petrol on the grounds they have become too expensive, in the country's first mass boycott campaign. 

Daoudi showed up on Tuesday night at a sit-in of Centrale Danone workers calling on consumers to end the boycott, which the government fears will damage the wider economy.

"The participation of brother Lahcen Daoudi in the sit-in in question is unreasonable and inappropriate," the PJD general secretariat said in a statement after an extraordinary meeting chaired by Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani.

The secretariat general added that its members "appreciate that brother Lahcen Daoudi asked to be dismissed from his ministerial responsibility".

Daoudi did not pick up his phone when Reuters called.

During the sit-in, Daoudi told Reuters that the demands of the workers to stop the boycott were legitimate.

France's Danone purchased Morocco’s National Investment Company's stake in Centrale Laitiere in 2014 and changed its name to Centrale Danone, before acquiring a 99 percent stake in the national milk company.

The boycott which began on 20 April is also directed at Afriquia fuel stations owned by billionaire minister Aziz Akhanouch and the Sidi Ali mineral water brand.

Centrale Danone has said that sales have halved since the start of the campaign and it will post a 150 million Moroccan dirham ($15.9m) loss in the first half.

It has also said that the campaign prompted it to cut milk it collects from the 120,000 farmers who supply it by 30 percent.

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