Two bakers’ union, the Premium Bread Makers Association of Nigeria (PBAN) and the Association of Master Bakers & Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCN) have lamented the high cost of purchasing baking ingredients in Nigeria.
The group, in a press conference held in Lagos, called on the federal government to look into the increase in the prices of the essential material, describing it as a “near wipeout of the bread-making industry in Nigeria.”
The president of PBAN, Tosan Jemide, while addressing journalists at the press conference on Thursday, said that the bread-making industry has employed millions of Nigerians directly or indirectly, making it a key employer of labour in the country.
Mr Jemide noted that bread has become an important staple food in most Nigerian households, regardless of social standing and hindrance to its production could affect the country’s economy adversely.
“Although we have been experiencing difficulties for a while, the period between March 2020 and August 2020, the price of flour which is our major ingredient has increased from N10,500 per 50kg bag to N13,500 per bag. Sugar increased from N13,500 per bag, went as high as N29,000 and down to N19,000 per bag in the corresponding period.
“Margarine, from N5,800 is almost N11,000. A 25 litre can of Vegetable oil which was about N13,000 thousand now sells for N16,000 while Milk which was hitherto N29,000, now goes for N52,000. Preservative (Calcium Propionate) increased from N25,000 to N34,500, with the possibility of further price increases not ruled out,” he said.
Mr Jemide added that the members of the association have been putting up with the price hike in the past six months without a corresponding increase in the prices of bread. He, however, said the bakers could no longer continue to subsidise the rates of bread, as their profits have been totally wiped out.
He said, “Most of us got loans with double-digit interest rates from banks and other financial institutions to fund our bakery projects and are finding it extremely difficult to meet our loan repayment obligations. Both Associations shall henceforth be responding correspondingly to any indiscriminate price increases by millers, sugar refiners, and ingredient manufacturers and suppliers with the same measure in the prices of bread.”
Mr Jemide also kicked strongly against the decision of the flour millers, sugar refiners, and baking ingredient manufacturers to increase the prices of their products without due consultations with the stakeholders in the baking industry.
“We expect that at the very least, they would give us enough time to plan and get psychologically prepared to absorb the shocks that come with price increases. While we clearly understand their predicament, and their strong desire to remain profitable, it would worthy of note to mention that they would be out of business if all the bakeries adopt their approach to profitability as the demand for flour-based products would drop significantly once the price exceeds a certain threshold.
“In reality, we have been busy helping them remain profitable while our businesses suffer because we are more in tune with the purchasing power of the consumer and are deeply concerned about food security,” he said.
He further disclosed that there has been a 15% in place for the national wheat development program as well as a 5% tariff on wheat imports, yet there has been no significant benefit in the wheat supply chain.
He called on the federal government to look into ensuring the development program functions well or consider scrapping it totally.
“If this is not a viable program, we appeal to the government to scrap it and give the millers this 15% back so it can cascade to the entire flour industry and the Nigerian citizens alike,” he said.
The treasurer of PBAM and Managing Director of Country Fresh Bread, Yetunde Adeyemi, told PREMIUM TIMES at the event that it has been a challenging period for her and other bakers across the country.
She said that it has become difficult to continue to withstand the high rise in the cost of raw materials, hence the need to call on the federal government to come to the rescue.
She said, “As we said earlier, bread is a staple food that should not even be expensive but in the situation we are heading to, we will start seeing a rise in the cost of bread. As you are aware, bread is the food for the masses and it shouldn’t be expensive.
“From now moving forward, there is going to be a change in the price of our bread. Let me now tell you that the additional cost will not even cover our expenses, we just want to survive.”
Ms Adeyemi noted that the increase in the cost of raw materials has not reduced the quality of their products, as they still strive to deliver the best to the consumers of bread in Nigeria.
“To be honest with you, because we want to survive the time, you may find some bakeries trying to work around the weight. I can guaranty you, for we the Premium Bakers, our quality remains the same,” she said.