Mary Nnah

Bread is a basic staple in many homes in Nigeria. In fact, it is easily accessible than other kinds of food. Both the rich and the poor consume bread, and it comes in various sizes, shapes, compositions and price tags to meet the needs of different categories of consumers.

With a population of over 180 million people and an estimated national population growth rate of 5.7 per cent per annum and an average economic growth rate of 3.5 per cent per annum in the past five years, Nigeria indeed has a large market for bread.

The bread industry creates jobs – those directly employed by the industry, armies of bread distributors, sellers and hawkers all over the streets.

Undoubtedly, it has reduced national unemployment in the country by a wide margin.

Information gathered from the Premium Breadmakers Association of Nigeria (PBAN) alone has it that over 700 thousand people are gainfully employed in the premium bread sub sector of the industry both directly and indirectly.

Notwithstanding the above, President of PBAN, Tosan Jemide, revealed that several factors have over the years, been plaguing the profitability, viability and survival of the industry.

“Premium bakeries are going under every day due to the unbearable cost of production. One of the biggest challenges facing the bread industry is government policies regulating importation of materials needed for the production of bread.”

For one, there is a dissonance tune between government policies for the industry and the realities that major stakeholders that comprise bakers, face. For instance, the government charges 15 percent extra duty for wheat importation into Nigeria”, Jemide lamented.

The PBAN President revealed further that in the last five years also, the price of raw materials for making bread has been on the steady increase with flour increasing by over 150 percent, noting that “Sellers of these raw materials can afford to hike their prices in demands to market forces but the premium baker is not as dynamic.”

Yet another major challenge of the industry, Jemide said is the glut, saturation of that space with too many players. “For outsiders without much insight into the industry, the business of bread making is looking very lucrative. This explains the many bakeries-both certified by NAFDAC and non-certified by NAFDAC-in all nooks and crannies of the country.”

Closely related to this, is the activities of unregistered, unlicensed and undocumented producers of bread, who are not under any obligation to adhere to NAFDAC health and other safety standards. They pose a risk not just to regulated bakers but to the last consumer. They produce cheap, but poor quality bread with unwholesome baking material like potassium bromate which is injurious to health and cancerous, nonetheless, attract high patronage because of their low prices.

Jemide who said that PBAN recognises the efforts NAFDAC is making to stop the use of unwholesome baking materials for bread production, especially the use of potassium bromate that is, noted however that the Association feels NAFDAC is seriously under-staffed as a regulator of food and drugs in Nigeria.

”We wonder how with a staff of about 2,300, NAFDAC is expected to police bakeries that use unwholesome baking materials who are churning out killer products to the market in a vast and to be adequately staffed to enable them fulfil their regulatory functions”, the President of PBAN wondered.

Speaking further, Jemide said, “The regulated and licensed bakers in PBAN, who have to bear the extra cost of meeting NAFDAC requirements, often find it difficult to compete with these unlicensed and unregulated producers on price. This is evidenced by the numbers of premium bakeries that are folding up daily. Some of the registered producers have been compelled to cut corners-such as defaulting on some of NAFDAC’s requirements-just to survive. ”

While calling for immediate action by all stakeholders, Jemide said the need to come to the roundtable and iron things out was important.

”There should be a deliberate effort by the government to grow the premium bread making industry. PBAN will look at finding a way to engage government in finding lasting solutions needed to salvage the bread making industry in Nigeria”, the PBAN’s President noted further.