Some bakery owners on Thursday protested against the high price of flour in the country, saying many bakers had closed shops and could no longer take care of their families.
The men, who gathered under the aegis of Progressive Bakers Association of Nigeria, appealed to the Federal Government to come to their rescue.
The protesters stormed PUNCH Place, Magboro, on Thursday with placards, some of which read, ‘Nigerian flour millers are killing the baking industry,’ ‘Please, set us free from Nigerian flour millers our dear President Buhari,’ ‘The millers are responsible for the high prices of loaves of bread and other flour-based products.’
The National President of the group, Dauda Suleiman, said if the government refused to address the situation, the group would take drastic measures.
He said, “We are facing a lot of hardship and we can no longer bear it. We have decided to speak out. The problem is being perpetrated by Nigerian flour millers. The price of flour, which is the major ingredient of bread, was increased when the country was in recession and the naira depreciated against the dollar. That was about six months ago. It was increased from N7,000 to over N11,000 per bag. At that time, the naira exchanged for about N540 to a dollar.
“The naira has gained value against the dollar and now exchanges for N365, but the flour millers have refused to reduce their prices. Whereas the price of a bag of rice that used to be N20,000 is now N12,000, and a plastic paint of garri that once cost N1,000 now sells for N350, what happened to flour? We have been thrown into crises because of the activities of the millers. We are finding it difficult to sell our products.
“By now, a loaf of bread that sells for N200 should be selling for N150. People now go for rice instead of buying bread, and this is really affecting out trade.”
Suleiman said while some of the group’s members had lost their jobs, others had become motorcycle riders, adding that the business was no longer lucrative.
He said, “On a daily basis, we are incurring losses and losing workers. The business is no longer lucrative. When you are in a business and the profit margin is less than five per cent, is that a sustainable business?”
The association president lamented that the quality of the flour was also poor, adding that some of the members put addictives to supplement the inadequacies of flour produced in the country.
Another executive member of the group, Olufisayo Adebanjo, said when they approached some of the flour millers, they were informed that the price was not changed because of some powerful forces.
He said, “When the dollar exchange rate increased and things became expensive, we had to adjust. But now that there is a reduction in the exchange rate, we expect a drop in prices of products that the ingredients are imported. We have been complaining, but they have refused to do anything about it. When we met some of them, they told us some cabals were controlling the prices. They are cheating Nigerians and this must stop. The prices of loaves of bread should have dropped by now. The loaf of bread you buy for N200, ought to have become N150. The Federal Government must intervene.”
The regional Sales Manager of Golden Penny Flour Mills, Mr. Okpa Sunny, said the bakers were not being sincere.
He explained that the price of flour was N7,000 in 2014, adding that the price changed when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came in.
He said, “The exchange rate in 2014/2015, before this administration came in, was N200 to a dollar. The price of flour was N7,000 then. But now that the exchange rate has doubled, the current price of flour ought to have doubled as well.
“Actually, when the naira went up to N500 to a dollar, there was an attempt to increase the price of flour to N12,000. But when the dollar rate stabilised at N365, we lowered the price to N11,000. Even at that N11,000, these bakers still get discount as much as N1,000 that makes them to buy the product at N10,000.
“Ask the bakers if they have reduced the price of loaves of bread? Why have they not reduced it because flour is not the only ingredients of bread? They add some other items to the bread. If the prices of those other things have reduced, why have they not reduced prices of their loaves?”