The price of bread will not increase! This was implied by the Minister of Commerce, Soodesh Callichurn, and the President of the Bakery Owners Association, Nasser Moraby, who is open to any proposal to prevent the bakeries from closing down. 3 more bakeries have ceased operations today, bringing the total to 8.
New subsidies according to Callichurn
Asked about the fate of bakeries and the price of Scheduled Bread, the Minister said, “If the government increases the price of bread, it will be the public that will grumble. We are working on new measures to support bakery owners,” he said. Soodesh Callichurn was participating in a workshop organized by the Mauritius Trade Union Congress on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Later in his speech, the Minister made it clear that “the studies by the World Bank indicate that the world is facing a food crisis. We have to look for solutions to the question, are we going to resort to food. Importers are paying a lot of money. The solution is not to demonstrate in the streets. We cannot afford to take short term measures as a government. We have a perfect model as compared to other countries and we must not destroy this model. People must help each other as good neighbors,” he appealed.
Three new temporary closures
As reported in our article of 28 April, these temporary closures are due to increases in fuel prices and the soaring prices of inputs and improvers. The last 3 bakeries to be closed are the King Mill in Floreal and the Padma Supermarket Bakeries at 16 Mille in Forest Side and in Flic en Flac. As of 27 April, 5 bakeries had closed including Roopchand Bakery in Robinson Curepipe, Boulangerie St Esprit in Bel Air, Top Bread and Pavée d’Amour in Vacoas. Moraby Bakery, one of several, reopened its doors on Thursday following recommendations and persuasions from loyal customers.
Even the gift of flour won’t help
The bakers and some of the owners tell us that they will not restock on diesel as soon as their stocks are finished. Nasser Moraby says, “The slope is down, several other bakeries will follow suit. The ministry still wants dialogue on the Rs 1.50 hike even though it knows that we have been humane in not including the other two fuel hikes of February and April in this calculation. We are waiting for these measures. But we wonder what those measures might be which will allow us to cover the increases while keeping the current price of Scheduled Breads. Even if he offers all bakeries the 25 kg flour pouch as a gift, which is Rs 155, according to the association’s calculations, this will cover only Rs 0.50 cents. What could be the subsidy”, asks the President of the Bakery Owners Association. He does not hide the fact that “the Association is waiting for the Eid Ul Fitr holiday to pass before meeting and deciding on what will be the most logical approach. We are still waiting for the government to do what it should do. It would be unfortunate if consumers had to pay the price for the government’s inaction. Bakeries can no longer work at a loss”. Namely, home-made bread and baguette are the only breads that are regulated and sold at a fixed price to be respected by all bakeries. The bakeries do not want to bypass this regulation and charge Rs 1.50 more per 100 grams of bread.
Bread better than in February without STC
As for the quality of the much-touted ‘Scheduled Breads’, Nasser Moraby says, “The quality of bread is better now than in February. This is because bakeries are investing from their own pockets and are not using the State Trading Corporation’s inputs and improvers. A majority of bakeries are using the better-quality inputs and improvers manufactured by Concorde Mills Ltd. and selling at Rs 1000 for now while other importers are charging around Rs 1400. But the LMLC is planning to increase its prices to Rs 1100. It will be another battle”.