11th September, 2012
Since the Federal Government increased the duty paid on the importation of wheat into the country by 15 percent, there have been various reactions from stakeholders. First, those processing wheat for end users, the millers, increased the price of flour to reflect the additional cost paid on the commodity which is mostly imported. This was followed by an increase in the prices of flour-related products, especially bread, by Master Bakers and Caterers Association of Nigeria, an umbrella body for those using flour to produce end products like bread, snacks and other foods.
Though the Federal Government’s intention for increasing the duty paid on wheat was to promote its policy of 40 percent increase in the cassava content in bread, some unscrupulous people are bent on sabotaging this initiative. They have adopted measures that are inimical to the good health of consumers.
Since the price of flour went up, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of bread produced without label on the streets of Lagos. The Lagos State Chairman of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers, Prince Jacob Anjorin, gave credence to this at the weekend when he raised an alarm that adulterated bread had flooded the state. The master baker warned Lagosians to beware of cheap bread being sold all over the nooks and crannies of the state, adding that these unscrupulous bakers use adulterated flour and other harmful ingredients to produce bread.
We implore the government to take this allegation seriously and investigate its veracity. This is necessary in order to prevent food poisoning by those who patronise these local bakers. Government should come up with guidelines to regulate the activities of bakers and weed out those using unapproved substances in the production of bread.
There is also the need to step up the campaign against them in the media by enlightening the people on the dangers posed by their activities. We are also aware that the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has guidelines clearly spelt out for bakers. Enforcement officials of the agency must be made to wake up to their responsibilities by enforcing them. Bakeries of local bakers found to have breached the guidelines or found using harmful items or the potentially dangerous potassium bromate must be shut down.
Government must also listen to bakers in its implementation of the 40 percent cassava and 60 percent wheat content in the production of bread. Bakers have accused government of not encouraging them to implement the policy by its refusal to import the necessary mixing equipment to achieve the policy. It is our opinion that government should heed this plea and render the necessary assistance to enable them implement the policy.