Millers at­tack bak­ers over flour im­ports

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Business - Busi­ness Re­porter

GRAIN millers have crit­i­cised the bak­ers as­so­ci­a­tion, Lo­bels Bread and its ma­jor share­holder, Old Mu­tual, over what it de­scribes as “false­hoods” be­ing spread by the Na­tional Bak­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe re­gard­ing the re­moval of wheat flour from the Gen­eral Im­port Li­cence by Govern­ment.

The Grain Millers As­so­ci­a­tion of Zim­babwe yes­ter­day noted that two ma­jor bread bak­ing com­pa­nies had al­ready switched to 100 per­cent Zim­bab­wean milled flour.

The millers as­so­ci­a­tion ac­cused the NBAZ of launch­ing a cam­paign against the plans to amend the rules of ori­gin for wheat flour as enun­ci­ated by the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Pa­trick Chi­na­masa in the 2017 Na­tional Eco­nomic Bud­get State­ment.

The millers al­leged that the bak­ers as­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents some of the bak­ers in the coun­try, is de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing the public through a cam­paign in the last fort­night against Govern­ment’s in­ter­ven­tion. The bak­ers as­so­ci­a­tion, it is al­leged, has been ar­gu­ing that the “price of flour had gone up by 19 per­cent”.

“The NBAZ wants to con­tinue im­port­ing flour so that they can blend for ‘qual­ity’ pur­poses.”

GMAZ said: “The sub­mis­sions made by the NBAZ are, with re­spect, false.”

GMAZ said the price of bak­ers flour has been and still ranges from $26 to $32 per 50kg bag. The range is in­formed by quan­tity/pay­ment dis­counts, pro­mo­tions, among other things, ex­tended to bak­ers.

“If the dis­count is with­drawn due to fail­ure to meet agreed pay­ment obli­ga­tions or for any other rea­son or if the pro­mo­tion ends, that will not con­sti­tute as an in­crease.

“For the record, some bak­ers have a bad pay­ment record and we are ready to pub­lish the names and par­tic­u­lars of these bak­ers if they chal­lenge us to do so,” the millers said.

“For ar­gu­ment sake, as­sum­ing that there was a price in­crease of $5 per 50kg bag as al­leged by bak­ers, this will trans­late to three cents per loaf. Bak­ers price to re­tailer’s ranges from 72 cents per loaf to 90 cents per loaf of bread. So even the three cents per loaf is very in­signif­i­cant to cause bread in­crease.

“NBAZ have no­to­ri­ety of threat­en­ing price in­creases as an ex­tor­tion­ate means to arm twist Govern­ment to give in to their de­mands. A quick (search on) Google will show that NBAZ has made these threats more than four times since dol­lar­i­sa­tion in 2008 up to present day but bread has re­mained at most $1 per loaf na­tion­wide.

“Bak­ers are free to em­bark on back­ward in­te­gra­tion by ac­quir­ing milling plants, (ex­ist­ing or new) or al­ter­na­tively own wheat and have it toll milled. Vic­to­ria Foods, third largest flour milling com­pany is avail­able for toll milling. These are bet­ter al­ter­na­tives to re­duce costs of flour and are con­sis­tent with na­tional in­ter­est and ob­jec­tives of lo­cal­is­ing pro­duc­tion,” GMAZ said.

Fur­ther­more, the millers said, two of the coun­try’s lead­ing bak­eries — Bak­ers Inn and Pro­ton — are now procur­ing 100 per­cent lo­cal flour and their de­ci­sion to do so is com­mend­able.

The qual­ity of their prod­ucts re­main the coun­try’s best and the con­sumer’s favourite. This is tes­ti­mony that, af­ter a more than $34 mil­lion re­tool­ing ex­er­cise car­ried by lo­cal millers, lo­cal flour has not only im­proved but com­pares favourably with other flour pro­duced in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“Any claims that lo­cal wheat flour has to be blended with im­ported wheat flour on the grounds of its poor qual­ity is mis­lead­ing and un­true. It is sim­ply a ploy by some bak­ers who want to prof­i­teer from cheap im­ports at the ex­pense of our econ­omy. Lo­bels Bread, for ex­am­ple, has been the big­gest wheat flour im­porter in the coun­try in the past five years but cu­ri­ously, it has the high­est whole­sale price of 90 cents per loaf.

“The sav­ings ob­tained on cheap flour have not been ex­tended to the mil­lions of con­sumers. It, there­fore, begs a ques­tion, who is ben­e­fit­ing from these cheap wheat flour im­ports? “It’s sim­ply a prof­i­teer­ing gim­mick that bor­ders on eco­nomic sab­o­tage,” GMAZ said.

“Govern­ment has given nec­es­sary pro­tec­tion to Cairns foods against com­pet­ing im­ported prod­ucts. It is this same pro­tec­tion against im­ports that have been ex­pected to lo­cal millers.”

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