By Kebba Mamburay and Kebba Secka
The Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment and Sen Four Bakeries Association are yet to agree on terms, but information reaching Foroyaa is that they will meet again today. Meanwhile scarcity of bread continued for the second day yesterday as desperate buyers either queued or scrambled for it at the very few bakeries that made them available.
Each side is accusing the other of reneging on their promise.
Speaking to reporters on behalf of The Sen Four Modern Bakeries Association, yesterday June 28th 2018, Muhammed Sinera, the PRO of the Association denied rumours circulating within the country that bakery owners closed their bakeries because of greed and lack of sympathy for their fellow countrymen and women, etc. Sinera explained that they had a dialogue with the Minister of Trade, Dr Isatou Touray, before the Ramadan to reduce the price of bread; but that it was agreed at that meeting that this would only be for the Ramadan and they called it “Ramadan Discount”; that this made them to reduce the price of bread from D7 to D6.
The President of the Association Kebba Janneh, said they’ve been selling bread as agreed with the Government but that few days before the end of the Ramadan, they wrote to the Minister indicating that the D6 price of bread, was not profitable. He said that they did not receive a call from her Ministry and decided to write a follow-up letter to inform her that they will restore the D7 price of bread, as agreed in their Ramadan reduction, but that to date the Minister never responded to their letter. This he said motivated them to announce on Radio that they will restore the price of bread to D7. Janneh said afterwards, shopkeepers were threatened for selling bread at the price of D7 and another was arrested for selling bread at D7. He went on to say that he himself was called to the Police as President of the Association, to answer to questions regarding the increase in bread price but explaining to them, what transpired at the meeting they had with the Minister.
Janneh further explained that they spend a lot in the process of making bread and that this ranges from repairs on their machines, spare parts and fuel and the purchase of flour; that to start operating a bakery, requires nothing less than D4 Million. He asserted that the quality of flour has been reduced and GMC can attest to this; that they buy fuel for their generators when power is out and cash power is expensive. Janneh said all these are expenses that they need to overcome to make profit out of their businesses. He further pointed out that to repair a breakdown in a bakery costs a minimum of D10,000.00 which he said, is too much for them.
The Lawyer and the legal adviser of the Sen Four Modern Bakeries Association, Lawyer Edward A. Gomez, advised Members of the association to stay and work within the framework of the Law, pointing out that no Law forces anyone to sell bread at D6.
Foroyaa also spoke to the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment Mr Lamin Dampha, who claimed that the ministry is in its highest gear towards finding a solution to the problem. He said they have had meetings with the Sen Four Bakeries Association where they were given the opportunity to raise their concerns. He pointed out that these concerns were carefully listened to and have been forwarded to the executive so that something beneficial would come out in the end. He added that government cannot just hear their concerns and right away solve them but would see what do it. He said for that reason, the ministry had invited both the importers and the bakers to a meeting on Wednesday 27th. He said in this meeting, the importers told the ministry that wheat price is increased in the world market by $40 per ton and that is the reason why imported flour is sold for D1010 or D1050. According to Dampha, the two domestic companies that produce flour sell it at a lower price than that of the imported flour. He said Gambia Milling Company sell wheat flour from D895 to D1000 while NESSIM sell a bag of flour from D895 to D900.
Dampha also said that during the Wednesday meeting with importers and bakers, importers raised the issue of the increment in fuel price, noting that fuel has increased by 4.5% globally. He said even though the prices of these items have increased in the world market, government still needs to carefully study the situation because looking at the cost price of the locally produced flour and the imported ones, it is evident that the locally produced flour is cheaper than the imported one. He explained that though bakers complain of differences in the quality of the imported and locally produced flour, the end productions of bakers that bake imported flour and those that bake locally produced flour make little differences.
According to Dampha, at the end of the Wednesday meeting the bakers promised that they will continue to bake bread while negotiation still continues with their executive body but that this promise was not kept. Their lawyer Mr Edward Gomez was present at press conference. He advised Members of the association to stay and work within the framework of the Law; noting that no Law forces anyone to sell bread at D6.