Master and small-scale bakers have attributed their strike action and increased prices to rising cost of critical inputs like sugar, milk and flour.
Two major factors have been highlighted for unsavoury development. First, the three items named above are not locally produced in commercial quantity.
Second, is the wide differential in the exchange rate of the United States dollar to the naira. An Ibadan, Oyo State-based master baker, Sam Otunba, told The Guardian that stakeholders in the South West region downed tools to make consumers aware that the transfer of burden was not their making.
To substantiate his stance, he said a 25 kilogramme bag of milk powder now goes for N53,000 as against N44,000 it used to sell, even as a 50 kilogramme bag of flour rose from N10,400 to over N12,000 and a bag of sugar leaving N15,000 for N20,000.Also contributing to the unpalatable situation are high VAT, power generation, electricity tariff and transportation.
In Abuja, the professionals said their action was to get intervention, lamenting that the cost of raw materials had skyrocketed by 100 per cent since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
General Secretary of the Master Bakers Association of Nigeria, Jude Okafor, said: “A 50 kilogramme bag that was purchased at N10,000 before the lockdown now sells for N14,000. The prices of sugar, yeast, butter and other inputs for baking have increased by about 100 per cent.
“South West states just finished their four days of service withdrawal, Imo too just finished, Edo is also embarking on a one-week service withdrawal.”
The body, therefore, urged government to suspend the 15 per cent levy on wheat. The scribe said the fund could revive the industry. On plan to ban wheat imports, he said the decision would render 450,000 jobless.
“For instance, I had 60 workers in my factory, but now, I have reduced them to 30. If they ban wheat importation, that means I will have to lay them off because I will not be able to keep them employed,” Okafor clarified.
Independent data revealed that Nigeria spends N735,840,000,000 yearly on importation of the product amid extant import substitution and backward integration policies.
The Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) said the nation eyes a production figure of 150,000 metric tones this year, representing an insignificant fraction of the yearly demand of about 5.26 million metric tonnes.
The target would cause a deficit of 5,110,000 metric tonnes.President of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops and former Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Prof. Lateef Sanni, however, advised bakers to embrace the locally produced high quality cassava flour.
He said the players could substitute wheat with up to 20 per cent of cassava flour and honey for sugar.Managing Director of Agro Park, Olusola Olunowo, advised that bakers could experiment with orange-fleshed sweet potato, as his company had successfully deployed between 20 and 30 per cent of the product in production.