Nigeria’s Master Bakers go on strike
The Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria began a nationwide strike this week to protest soaring production costs, fueled partly by western sanctions on Russian agricultural exports. The association’s more than 450,000 members have vowed to keep their doors closed for at least a week to pressure the government to remove a 15 percent tax on wheat.
The Buhari administration imposition of a 15 percent tax on wheat signifies that the Federal Government is running out of funds to keep the country functioning. Coupled with high fuel cost, worries are growing that Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy is heading for a Sri-Lankan style meltdown.
The bakers’ association is trying to pressure authorities to resolve several issues affecting productivity, especially the soaring price of ingredients and fuel, and to remove a 15 percent tax on wheat imposed by authorities.
Prices for wheat and sugar, key ingredients in bread, have been rising steadily in Nigeria for years but nearly tripled following Russia’s operation in Ukraine in February and the resultant western sanctions on Moscow. Acording to Nairametrics Nigeria’s import of sugar increased to 72% and valued at N1.29 trillion while durum wheat imports jumped to 80% and valued at N1 trillion.
The master bakers say other factors like insecurity, high diesel prices for generators because the nation -after almost 62 years after independence- still has an epileptic power supply.
“Over 90 percent of them (bakers) have lost working capital, all the bakers, those who are still in the business are now massively indebted,” Jude Okafor, national secretary of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, said. “The master bakers are suffering from several factors.”
Babatunde Irukera the director of Nigeria’s Federal Competition and Consumption Protection Commission, said the commission is doing what it can to help the bakers, but said a strike is not the answer
“We do not regulate price, when the bakers come together, we regulate competition, and we think it’s problematic if they come as an association to strike, and we’ve told them that coming together to strike and prevent production is anti-competitive. Every baker should go out there, those who can do their business should do it.” Irukera added.