By Mike Adeyemi
The Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBC), Kwara chapter Sunday night suspended its four-day industrial action, National Pilot learnt
The industrial action which commenced last Thursday, has plunged thousands of families across the state into untold hardship.
This medium had earlier reported that bread shelves in many grocery stores as well as tea spots within Ilorin, the state capital, were empty, indicating a break in the supply chain.
Speaking with our reporter on Tuesday, the immediate past Chairman of Kwara Master Bakers, Alhaji Babatunde Gidado said the union had suspended its four day industrial action because of the people of Kwara state.
According to him, ‘we decided to suspend the strike temporarily having seen the hardship our off- duty had inflicted on our teaming consumers in the state.’
“We called off the strike on Sunday night after an emergency meeting we had among ourselves. We decided to augment the prices just to make the commodity available for our consumers.
“The new price is tentative as we just got a message from the national headquarters today that we may likely go back on industrial action if the Federal Government refuses to do anything to our demand,” he said.
He added that despite several meetings the union had with the Federal Government over the need to compel millers to reduce the price of flour, the price of the material keeps skyrocketing everyday.
“Before the strike, we had a meeting in Abuja with the Minister of Agriculture, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the millers. Unfortunately the CBN officials were not in attendance.
“The millers said heavy taxation imposed on importation of wheat by the CBN causes the hike in the prices of flour. Millers added that for every amount spent to buy wheat, 30 per cent of it is going to the CBN’s purse.
“When the Minister of Agriculture wanted to deny the statement, millers brought out their data that spelt out how the taxes had been collected in the period under review.
“We later shifted another meeting for 19th August last month, the CBN again failed to attend the meeting. Having undergone all these resolution mechanism without any result, we decided to embark on strike, Gidado stressed.
He, however, said to keep the business afloat, Kwara Master Bakers decided to add to the prices of the commodity in the state.
The new bread price regime saw the former loaf sold for N50 increased to N70 while that of N100 has jacked up to N120. A loaf sold for N200 is now sells for N250 while that of N350 is now N400.
However, residents in Ilorin metropolis have continued to narrate their ordeals over the scarcity of bread as the strike lasted.
A consumer, while narrating his ordeal, said “I didn’t know that local bakers are on strike.
“I came to buy bread for my family only to be told that there is no bread, because local bakers are on strike. It saddens me, but there is nothing one can do”.
Yusuf Abass, a 39-year-old man, who claims to eat bread as breakfast on a daily basis, said the situation had forced him to resort to other alternatives.
One Luqman Ambali said, “if this continues, we would be compelled to start producing bread at home for use by our families”.
Another consumer who spoke under anonymity lamented by saying, “it is unfortunate, the bread that we use as food supplement to support our poor families is no longer within our reach”.
It was gathered that the cost of yeast, baking powder, flour, sugar and margarine among other commodities used for bread production, have skyrocketed thereby affecting the general cost of production.
Bako Aileru, Chairman of Association of Tea Sellers in Ilorin, said the action had inflicted a heavy loss on their members who were not aware of the planned strike as the bakers didn’t inform anybody about the strike.
“We only had a meeting with them prior to industrial action where they (bakers) lamented over the hike in the prices of bakery items. We supported them on the proposed increase in the prices of units of bread.
“We are not happy with the bakers’ decision as all our members have prepared tea for sale and later found out that bread factories have been shut down due to the strike”, Maishayi frowned.
Reports have it that, Bakers Association has temporarily banned bread suppliers from neighboring states.