Residents of Aba, Abia State will pay more for bread from this week, following the decision of Master Bakers in the commercial city to increase prices of the house-hold commodity, to ensure that they make a little gain and remain in business.
The master bakers downed tools last week to enable members’ service their equipment and clean up their production lines, which according to Emma Nwaohia, chairman, Aba chapter of Master Bakers Association, is an annual routine.
Nwaohia in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay, Sunday, in Aba, also explained that bakers use the period to deliberate on issues affecting their business and make some adjustments where necessary.
According to him, the advent of coronavirus pandemic affected bakers badly. Our cost of production has increased.
“Flour millers have increased price of floor 5-times, between March and August 2020.
“The price of 50kg bag of flour which we were buying at the cost of N9,000, before March 2020, has increased to N13,500. A bag of Sugar (50kg), went up from N13,000 to N15,000. A carton of butter sold for N6,000, before the lockdown, is now N13,000, while a carton of yeast, went up from N7,000 to N8,000, to N14,000 to N15,000.
“We have been struggling all this while, and so we decided to use this time to put our bakeries in order, after that, we will do some little adjustment on our prices.
He continued, “Bread is not a commodity that you can just wake up one morning and increase its price. We just want to help ourselves. Floor millers do not consult us before they increase the price and you cannot stop them from increasing, because they said they don’t want to be out of business, because they don’t produce wheat, which is imported.
“As far as the dollar is increasing, the price of wheat must increase. For us, the end-users, we are handicapped, because we are serving the masses.
“Our business was approved by God because Jesus used bread to feed the multitude and we are doing the same, but sometimes it is to the detriment of our business.
“Our Governor cannot subsidize the cost of wheat, because the state does not grow wheat, neither is he going to subsidize the cost of flour since he is not a flour miller. He is a good man and if he is in a position to subsidize any of the items, he will.
“But he cannot subsidize, because he is not importing floor,” he stated.
On the call for use of the cassava flour as a substitute for Wheat, the master baker said, “We have all tried it, but It is not working. The equipment for that mechanism is not available. And the government cannot give every bakery the equipment”.
He observed that the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic has affected all sectors of the economy, noting that things are not working well for now, but appealed to the Federal Government to assist master bakers in Nigeria with funds to support their production.
“It has not been easy for Nigerians. What we are experiencing is not what we can manage on our own and that was why we downed tools to re-strategize.
He appealed to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to check the activities of touts, who disguise as government officials to overtax master bakers in Aba.
“We are suffering double taxation and I am sure that the Governor is not aware of what these touts are doing to bakers because I heard an announcement by the governor, where he warning these touts not to disturb Small and medium scale industries with unnecessary taxes”.