By Moses Anosike
Importers and dealers recently had their expectations dashed with the increment of the import duty on wheat grains to 20% and flour to 35% as contained in the 2012 Appropriation Bill that was recently presented by the President to the National Assembly.
Consequently upon the hike, consumable foods such as Bread, Spaghetti, Noodles, Pastries, Biscuits and allied products made from wheat flour will witness increase in price.
Already, investigations by Saturday Vanguard Business at the weekend reveals that prices of bread the staple food of the average Nigerian has witnessed a price increased of N20. The family seize loaf which ordinarily sells for N220 now sells for N240 while the UTC bread which initially sells for N200 is presently sells for N220.
Similarly, some biscuits which sell for N5 per pack now goes for three for N20. A development which has started generating heat in many family house hold in Nigeria. Other assorted biscuits displayed at most provision stalls go for N15 to N20 per pack.
Conversely, Spaghette, the mouth watering delicacy cherished by school children which initially sells for N100 now goes for N120 and beyond depending on the product brand.
Expressing dismay over the sudden jerk in prices of these flour products, Mr. Adelabi Johnson said he cannot reconciling how most parents can cope with the said development under the harsh realities of the dwindling fortunes of Nigerian economy.
His words: “Most parents have been thrown out of job yet, they have no fewer than three children in primary school. It means they have to spend more money on daily basis whenever the school resumes. No child in the city goes to school without either a pack or two of biscuits and a plate of noodles.”
But Nneji Okafor queries the federal government decisions behind the sudden hike in import duty, knowing too well that the poor man largely depends on bread and biscuits for his survival.
“Already, most Nigerians are jobless, I wonder how they can cope under such arrangement. I just believe that the Federal Government should start having a rethink in making or formulating policies that concern the poor Nigerians. However to say the least, this policy of increased in import duty of flour does not have a human face and it is anti-people,” Nnaji said.
A baker who would not want his name in print lamented that even at the official price of N5,400 for 50kg bag of flour, the profit margin realised at the end was nothing to write home about.
The baker however lamented that bakers seldom have access to most of the flour mills to make direct purchase of the product.
He stated that with the recent hike in import duty, the middlemen are bound to feast on the little profit margin they rake in at the end of business.
Another baker who gave his names simply as Nwankwo Ogochukwu noted in dismay that aside from flour, the rising cost of ingredients used for baking bread and confectioneries have impacted negatively on the industry.
According to him, the development has forced many bakery to close shops, thereby leaving the business to suffer.
“It is unfortunate that on daily basis most baking industries are closing shop particularly those who just started the business after they were thrown out of job. They cannot manage the business because, they are yet to master the rudiments. We the old hands manage to survive,” Ogochukwu said.
Another baker, Soji Babajide expressed fear that the new import duty regime may further stifled the industry and listed loose of job as one of its attendant consequences.
“We bakers already finding it hard to cope. Power supply is not available at all. we powered our generating set with not less than N20,000 on daily basis. We need to pay workers’ salaries and now increase in flour price. We must trim our workforce if we must remain in business.
However, government explained that there was no way the country could experience the desired growth in the face of unbridled importation of consumer items and specifically stated that jacking up of the duties was intended to challenge Nigerian farmers on the need to work harder so that Nigeria can become sufficient in food production.
It will also be recalled that the Federal Government have perfected plans for bakers to use local cassava flour for baking of bread, but how soon this may be has remained a discourse for another day.