From all indications, consumers of bread may have to pay more in weeks to come, as the price of the staple food is likely to rise.
The planned price increase is not unconnected with the increases in the cost of baking ingredients, and other inputs in the last three years.
The Guardian learnt that increase in price of flour and other inputs range between 80 per cent to 137 per cent since 2015. For instance, a 50 kg bag of flour, which is a major component of bread, rose from N6, 000 to N11, 000, about 90 per cent increase; sugar from N11, 000 to N16, 500, likewise other essential ingredients.
Though the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, (AMBCN), told The Guardian that the body would have to meet and discuss on price increase, but the Premium Bread Makers Association of Nigeria (PBMAN) said it would soon adjust the price.
The President of the Premium Bread Makers, Mr. Jemide Tosan, was quoted as saying: The challenges we face as a result of the incessant increase in the prices of baking ingredients have rendered most premium bakeries comatose, making us to operate at a loss.
A baker, Ramon Alani, who operates at Kollington area of Lagos State, said despite increase in prices of ingredients in the last three years, bread price has been stable, making bakers to run at a loss.
He added that the situation has forced many to abandon the business for now, to seek alternative sources of income and avoid going bankrupt.
Though bread prices have been stable for sometime as claimed, The Guardian surveys showed that the sizes, taste and quality has dropped drastically over the years.
A woman, Mrs. Moyosore Olawoye, who bought a N200 loaf last week in Abule-Egba area of Lagos State, expressed displeasure with both the taste and quality of the bread.
She lamented however, that if the price increase is affected, it would make bread unaffordable to the common man.
Aside reduction in the quality, taste and size, it was learnt that majority of bakers are adopting unwholesome methods to stay afloat.
The National Secretary, AMBCN, Jude Okafor told The Guardian that though its national executive is yet to take any decision as there are processes and procedures to follow, noting that whatever resolution they come up with, will put national interest into consideration.
He said due to challenges facing the industry, "more bakeries are closing shop than those coming up by our records and statistics. This is one of the reasons why the employment rate in the country has dropped drastically.
"Before, some bakers employ up to 100 workers but now they can hardly employ 20. We have realised that the only way to manage ourselves now is to downsize. Those who could not manage or downsize are closing shop, after being indebted to financial institutions."
As gathered, the price of flour, which forms the bulk of the baking inputs continues to surge, as it appears that there is no alternative to flour for now. A possible substitute for wheat flour is cassava flour. But despite the country's position as the world's largest producer of cassava with an annual production of 57.13 million tonnes, lack of will power by government has rendered the cassava-bread policy initiated by President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration hopeless.
It was learnt that the AMBCN wrote the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) recently on the issue, but they are yet to receive any reply.
He said: "Last month the ministry wrote a letter to the Flour Millers Association of Nigeria, a body operating like a cartel, telling them that they are killing the industry with price, but they are yet to reply. They don't know that after killing the business, a lot of people will leave the bakery business and seek alternatives, where profit can be guaranteed.
"When a dollar was N197 to N200, a bag of flour was N6, 000, and when $1 rose to N500, the price moved to N11, 000. But when the dollar started coming down to around N360, they refused to move downward, rather they are concocting all sorts of lies, saying they are trying so that we can survive. A bag of flour should be selling around N7, 000 or N8, 000. The high price of flour has forced bread price to where it is now."
He however, noted that the body is monitoring its members to ensure that quality is not compromised.