By Kebba Secka
A daylong meeting between ‘Sen Four’ Bakeries Association and Government on Friday June 29th, has yielded no progress, as stakeholders could not come to terms at the negotiating table. The meeting that started from 10am to 5pm, ended in a stalemate, but bakers were allowed to make bread as Government widens its data collection of information from different bakeries within the country.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade Lamin Dampha, said Government wants to make a fair decision so that at the end of the negotiations, both consumers and bakers will be satisfied with the outcome of their negotiations; that the reason for the long period of the meeting, was because bakers remained steadfast on the high cost of fuel and the price flour; that during the weekend, officials of the Ministry of Trade and Gambia Competition and Consumers Protection Commission (GCCPC), were going round bakeries collecting data that would help them make a fair decision. He appealed to the general public to allow them do their work, so as to come up with a decision that favours all; that the data collectors would have to submit so that by 12 midday on Monday, they will discuss and come up with a decision.
The president of the ‘Sen Four’ Bakeries Association in an interview after the meeting, said the flour type called ‘Eco’, has been rising to more than one hundred dalasi in just a month and half ago; that people can verify this information from the flour Companies in the country. He revealed that imported flour in Banjul cost between D1,010 to D1,050. ”Thank God that on behalf of the Association, we will continue to make bread until Monday,” he said. According to him, the high cost of fuel for their machines coupled with the high cost of flour on the world market, are enough to justify their stand against the D6 cost of a loaf of bread in the country; that they will respect their promise and make bread during the weekend but that the people should know that this does not favour them. ”Come Monday’s meeting, if we don’t agree for the D7, I will close my bakery,” he asserted.
Asked whether there can be an alternative rather than producers, suppliers and shopkeepers each making a percentage gain from the bread, Janneh said that is the mode of their operation; but that there were times when bakeries used to make bread and supply shopkeepers directly. According to him, this has now changed; that their association is one month old since it was registered but denied allegations that it came into being after Government intervened to regularize the price of bread.
A representative of the GCCPC Alpha Ousman Jallow, said if the bakers failed to come up with a genuine reason for the price of bread, Government will have to take it upon itself to fix the price; that if Government decides to peg the price at D6 then, those that feel it negatively, can close their bakeries or do something else. ”The GCCPC is not going to leave things with business persons to decide anyhow, but will take its position as an active player in protecting the rights of consumers in the country. ”We will be engaging the Councilors and the Area Councils so that the 60% that have to be ploughed back to the public, will be used for community ventures like building bakeries and promote youth employment for them to take ownership of this opportunity. With this we will ensure a competitive market and that will be beneficial to all,” Jallow said. He appealed to the public to understand that negotiations are ongoing, which outcome is pending until today, Monday, when the final decision on the price of bread will be decided to the satisfaction of everyone.