The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) plan to stage a march against bread companies next week after increases in bread prices over the last few months. Bread prices have not decreased after wheat has gone down by 12% and COSATU has demanded to know the reason there is no commensurate reduction in the price of bread.
Executive director of the South African Chamber of Baking, Geoff Penny, says that the process of creating bread from wheat is a 6 to 9 month process, thus making the wheat that was harvested 6 to 9 months ago still the same price, leading for the price of bread to stay the same. He however affirms that the recent reduction in wheat will lead to cheaper bread prices eventually.
“As consumers we often hear that the price of wheat has come down and then expect the price of bread to drop immediately. Wheat is a long-term product that takes 6 months to grow. Once it is grown it is then harvested, stored and shipped out to millers where it is stored once more and eventually milled. Once milled, the flour goes out to the bakery where the bread is produced and from there it is sent to retailers,” said Penny.
Penny said bakers are not the persons that set the final price for bread.
“Bakers do not set the final price for a loaf of bread, the retailer does that. Retailers do what they have to do to sell the product and to keep their customers happy. They put immense pressure on the baking industry as they do to any other supplier,” said Penny.
Penny adds that he would like to engage with COSATU so that the pricing mechanisms of the baking industry can be explained to them.
“It is all good to march and to get public sympathy, but it is not wise to do it if you do not know or understand the facts.”
Penny explains that there is not much to teach people who are dealing with the outcomes of the astronomical rise in food prices .He believes that the pinch has already taught people how to make their money stretch. He however feels that food wastage is a still problem that makes a difference.
“People tend to throw out the crusts of bread and not consume them. They also do not share bread. Communities need to start looking at their neighbours and ask ‘who is hungry?’ Being community focused can make a difference,” said Penny.
“I am hopeful that the price of bread will come down and I do hope that consumers will eventually have a bit of sympathy and understanding of how bread pricing works. I would also like to repeat my invitation to COSATU to engage with the SA Chamber of Baking.”