INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Lagos Bakers Association Ends Bread Strike

Published: Tue 18 Sep 2007 02:53 PM
VZCZCXRO0657
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0631 2611453
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181453Z SEP 07
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9412
INFO RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9188
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE USD WASHDC
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS LAGOS 000631
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
STATE FOR AF/W
STATE FOR INR/AA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR SOCI NI
SUBJECT: LAGOS BAKERS ASSOCIATION ENDS BREAD STRIKE
1. (U) Summary: Small and medium-sized bakeries in southern
Nigeria ended their strike over rising wheat prices. Post-strike
prices for a loaf of bread have risen 33 percent. While no violence
accompanied the strike, it served to highlight the continuing
economic squeeze felt by the average Nigerian.
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Bread Costs More, as Bakers Suspend Strike
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2. (U) On August 26, the Master Bakers Association of Nigeria (MBAN)
in Lagos State suspended its week-long bread strike which shuttered
many small and mid-sized bakeries in the region. The strike was
called in response to higher input prices; primarily wheat flour
which has risen sharply in the face increased worldwide demand and
fuel prices and poor harvests in some producer countries.
3. (U) Consumers now pay 15 to 20 naira more for bread following the
suspension of the one-week strike. A loaf of bread that previously
cost 60 naira now costs 80 naira while a standard loaf of sliced
bread which used to cost between 100 and 120 naira, now goes for 140
naira. Whole wheat bread now sells for 160 naira compared to 140
naira before the hike. It is rare to find a bread loaf that costs
below 40 naira. For reference, the average Nigerian survives on
about 250 naira per day.
4. (U) During the strike, the usual piles of bread at stalls along
busy Lagos roads dwindled significantly and available ones sold at
marked up prices. Loaves which used to cost 140 and 160 naira were
sold for 180 and 210 naira respectively, priced beyond the reach of
many consumers. Local press reported the impact of the bakers'
strike was mostly felt in cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt and
Onitsha. There have been no reports of street protests or violence
like those that accompanied the aborted gasoline price hikes in
July.
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Do Something, Anything
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5. (U) A Lagos bakery owner, Mrs. Abifarin told EconSpec that prices
of all bread ingredients have been on the rise in recent times; but
sugar and wheat flour prices rose the most. She said she paid 4,000
naira per 50 kilogram bag of flour barely a week after purchasing
the same quantity for 3,000 naira. While acknowledging that flour
millers were merely transferring the high cost of importing the
product, she berated the lack of consultation with bakers, who are
their primary customers. Mrs. Abifarin noted that consumers now see
bakers as inconsiderate for the increase in bread prices, though
they are powerless to reverse the trend. She predicts that prices of
confectioneries are likely to rise as well if the government of
Nigeria (GON) does not do "something"; though she was not clear on
what she thought the government could do.
6. (U) Comment: To the average Nigerian, bread is a staple food,
ready to eat and affordable. As such, this is a real and painful
day to day issue for many, if not most, Nigerians. The clamor for
the GON to do "something" has been loud but vague. Still, rising
bread prices are another poignant reminder that in a country blessed
with an abundance of petroleum in a time of record oil prices, the
average Nigerian continues to face economic hardship. End comment.
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