15 September 2012

Nigeria: Give us Our Daily Bread - At What Price?


The usual cool breeze that heralds dawn was conspicuously absent at Ajegunle, a suburb in Lagos. But people in the neighbourhood must resume their daily hassling and bursting which are the hallmarks of city life.

For Mrs Fidelia Nwakode, a widow, she and her four siblings begin the day with their early morning ritual prayers. Just like other days, she woke up on this fateful day with a sign of tiredness, and one after the other, she asked the children to converge at their small parlour for prayers. After some choruses, she muttered some few sentences to the Almighty God and eventually ended the prayers with our father, five us this day, our daily bread..."

At the end of the prayer session, she opened the door and windows, and occasionally exchanges pleasantries with neighbours. She rationed the domestic shores at home and then ordered, the last child, David to buy a loaf of family size bread in any one of the stores in the vicinity.

However, some minutes afterwards, David returned home without the bread. Reason, the price of bread has suddenly been increased without formal notice. Mrs Nwakode collected the two hundred note from her child without a word. She immediately prepared yam as an alternative to the bread and tea her children were used to.

"I can't imagine buying a loaf of family size bread for N220 as against N200. For the children to feed well, they consume two loaves of family size bread at a sitting. Things generally are not easy for me since I lost my husband in a mysterious circumstances over waste disposal in the compound. I do know that N400 can get me two tubas of yam, enough to feed my family since it's the season," she lamented to Saturday Vanguard.

Mrs Nwakode is not the only one who has been deprived of her daily bread following the sudden increase in price.

Madam Atinuke, a mother of three lamented that the sudden increase in the price of bread has compelled her to source for alternative food for breakfast for the children.

"My children enjoy eating bread but I can't do otherwise. We certainly cannot cope with the sudden hike in price. Until now, I buy at least two family size of loaves on daily basis. But I can't do that now," she said.

Investigation by Saturday Vanguard showed that the sudden change in price of bread may not unconnected to the increase in tariff for the importation of wheat and other confectionery condiments used in baking of bread in particular.

A flour dealer at the popular Mile 12 market who gave her name simply as Mama Ifeanyi, exonerated bakers from the sudden increase in the price of bread, but blamed the change in price on the gradual but systematic increase in flour and other condiments used for baking of bread. According to her, within a period of three months or so, the price of a bag of flour has changed for reasons we, the dealers cannot comprehend.

"About three months ago, a 50kg of flour goes for N6,200. It was later increased to N6,800. About three weeks after, it was increased again to N7,200 and today, it sells for about N8,200 and above depending on the product and dealer. Similarly, half bag goes for half the price, it's simple arithmetic," she said.

Mama Ifeanyi disclosed that not only bread bakers who may suffer from the development, but also those who bake and sell cakes, chin-chin, donuts, meat pie, egg rolls and others.

The flour dealer stated that consumers of such products may not easily notice any change in terms of price and package except those who are meticulous.

A confectionery seller, Gladys Adeleke disclosed to Saturday Vanguard that the hike in price of flour, has invariably reduced the size of her egg rolls, do-nuts and chin-chin in order to make a marginal profit.

"I'm not as big as those eateries. So, I manage to make profit from the little I can afford. Sometimes, I buy only a bucket of flour at N450 just for a day sales. In the past, a bucket of flour goes for N300, N320 but today the story is different," she said.

Mrs Adeleke stated that besides flour, other condiments are also required for the preparation of her wares aside from kerosine or firewood.

Also, Chief Benjamin Nnamdi who runs a bakery in Lagos, stated that government lackadaisical attitude towards bakers necessitated the sharp increase in the prices of bread.

He blamed the abysmal increase on the import duty on wheat, erratic power supply, the near non-availability of gas to power generators used by bakery operators and inconsistent policies by the government as combined factors that affected the recent price in bread.

The bakery owner recalled that the federal government has been toying with the idea of producing cassava flour but lamented that the product is yet to be available, at least in large quantity before opting to increase import duty on flour.

"Nigeria is a comic country. At one time or the other, bakers are exposed to one peculiar problem or the other. At a time, we had a grouse with the NAFDAC over the use of bromide for baking bread, and today this ...he said.

But a bread seller at the Alapere expressway,Ketu who gave his name as Olumide, said he hinted most of his regular customers over the impending increase in price before it was eventually effected.

"I sell all kinds of bread products produced by different bakers in Lagos except the popular Agege bread. The family size bread that sells for N200, now goes for N220, while those who sells theirs at N180, now sell for N200. The next size which ordinarily goes for N120, now sells for N150 and that N60 sells for N80," he said.

Olumide who said that the sharp increase in price has affected his daily sales margin, stated that only N20 orN25 was added to the price.

"But you know in Nigeria, one kobo means a lot. Most of my customers who used to buy two loaves of bread now ask for one and those who buy one may not want to buy sometimes. Generally, my sales has dropped but not greatly though," he said.

Reacting to the sudden increase in price of bread, Demiji, an artisan lamented that bread is no longer a food of the common man.

"Oga, bread is not a food for poor man. I cannot afford bread anymore. About two months ago, I can buy Agege bread for N50 and plate of locally prepared beans forN30, and my meal is ready. But not anymore. The least price of Agege bread is now N70 and a spoonful cooked beans is now N30, so, how can I cope?" he queries.

Similarly, Madam Alice Obamogie recalled with nostalgia how in her early childhood days, her mother would asked her to take some slice of bread to eat while waiting for the main dish to be prepared.

"In our time, we eat bread whenever we are hungry because it is ready available. We take some to school and even after school hours. But today, the story has changed. I can't buy enough bread for my children at the price at which it is sold. We stay days without eating bread these days," she said.

The search for alternatives

However, since the increase in the price of bread, most families are now beginning to search for alternative meal for breakfast.

Mrs. Uduak Uba is just one of them. She disclosed that since the increase in price of bread, she has resorted to convince her children to accept noodles as breakfast.

"I've four children and they are all of school age. Until now, they consume almost two family size loaves of bread in the morning before they go to school. But all that has changed now.

In the morning, I either boil yam or rice for them, while they take noodles to school. They seem to enjoy it. At least, it saves me the problem of buying bread," she said.

Mrs. Patricia Nwankwo said the breakfast of her children depends largely on the food in season.

At the moment, new yam is out, so my children take yam or rice in the morning and noodles in the afternoon. Whenever plantain becomes cheap, we feast on it as well. But my children love grains a lot. They don't ask for bread anymore since I told them that I cannot afford it," she said.

An auto mechanic, Akin said that though bread used to be his favourite meal but the sudden increase in price has affected his appetite for it.

"Since the price of bread has gone up, I don't think of buying it again. I now eat eba or amala. It sustains me for a long time before I start feeling hungry again. Besides, the bread produced these days are smaller in size. However, I but bread for my children sometimes," he said.

Another respondent, Madam Okade said bean cake otherwise known as akara is what she prepares for her family as breakfast, particularly at weekends."Bread is no longer food for the poor. How many loaves of bread will be enough to feed my family and at what cost? I encourage my children to akara, bean cake, moi moi and other affordable light food as noodles for breakfast," she said.

However, a cross section of respondents enthused that there are varieties of food for Nigerians to feast as breakfast. They generally concurred that rice remains the best staple food that can never disappear from our menu.

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