Bread crisis in Freetown – too early for ministers to take eyes off the ball

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 February 2019:

This morning hundreds of thousands of households are without bread across Freetown, as bakeries complain of sudden huge increase in the cost of flour. Some bakers are threatening to go on strike.

Most Sierra Leoneans spend more of their meagre household income on bread and rice than any other food items, which is why the shortage of bread in the shops this morning will affect millions of people.

Listen to Culture Radio FM 104.5 – Bread sellers talking about taking strike action:

This crisis, which the Bakers’ Association is reported to have  been caused by an unprecedented increase in the price of a bag of flour this week, should have been foreseen by the ministry of trade, whose remit also covers the monitoring of consumer prices.

What is the cause of the sudden increase in cost of flour in Sierra Leone, when there has been no sudden hike in global price of wheat? Who are the importers of flour?

Is the minister of trade in constant liaison with the various wholesale and retail associations responsible for rice and flour supply to gather weekly if not daily market intelligence to avoid national crisis?

The availability and affordability of rice and bread in Sierra Leone is of national security, and this must be taken very seriously by government.

It is quite shocking and beggars belief that bakeries should run short of flour  so suddenly, without someone in government not knowing this was going to happen.

If the ministry responsible is not up to the job of monitoring market trends of basic food item s in the country and plan quickly to avert national crisis, then president Bio must urgently establish a Market Intelligence Unit at State House that will carry out this task and report directly to the president or vice president for any necessary action.

Granted that the government has only been in power for just under twelve months, but it’s important that rice, bread and butter issues are given the utmost priority, to ensure that an already poverty-stricken population do not continue to suffer unnecessarily.

There is little doubt the NEW Direction is the RIGHT DIRECTION, after ten miserable years of poor governance and mismanagement of the country by the previous government. But eleven months in power is too short a time for ministers to begin to take their eyes off the ball. There is no place for slothfulness in governance.

Rice, bread and butter issues are matters of national security. If those charged by the president to help manage the economy are not pulling their weight, then soon there could be call for cabinet reshuffle – real and meaningful cabinet reshuffle to weed out slothful ministers.

The proposed Market and Economic Intelligence Unit’s sole responsibility must be to monitor, assess and evaluate daily changes in market demand and supply – especially monitor stocks of traders and prices of basic consumer items, and plan quickly to avert national crises.

Let common sense prevail.

 

Listen to a local baker speaking this morning on SLBC Radio:

7 Comments

  1. Bread used to cost one cent in the 70’s and now it’s up to Le500 or Le1000 which I believe is due to inflation in our free market economy, but ironically I have never heard about Bakers Association calling for strike action against the government.
    I personally believe that some saboteurs affiliated with the past APC government are trying to use the bread issue as a distraction from the ongoing Commissions of Inquiry.

  2. When the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) came to power on April 2018, they immediately succumbed to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and embarked on austerity measures, not taking into account the impact of these actions on macroeconomic variables, especially to a third world economy. They increased the price of fuel, increased business taxes, abandoned corporate tax waivers, and cut subsidies.

    If the All Peoples Congress (APC) party can be likened to the mythical character Robin Hood – the heroic English outlaw who robs the rich and gives to the poor, then the SLPP can be analogised to the legendary character Hood Robin – the fictitious Sierra Leone gangster that robs the poor and gives to the rich.

    With the revenue raised, the SLPP undertook the catering of the elite: increased the salaries of parliamentarians, government officials, the police, the army, teachers, among others. Coupled to these, they embarked on a spending spree: unnecessary retreats, parties, banquets, and roaming around the world fruitlessly in search of direct foreign investment; not knowing that they have created an unfriendly business environment in the country.

    Then they focused on blaming former President Earnest Bai Koroma (EBK) for their inherited problems. As if blaming the past administration is going to resonate some magical solutions. After 11 months, the elected SLPP government has NO CLUE in confronting the problems facing the nation. All these at the expense of the poverty stricken population.

    Now, inflation is spiralling and bread and butter issues are at stake: “hundreds of thousands of households are without bread across Freetown, as bakeries complain of sudden huge increase in the cost of flour. Some bakers are threatening to go on strike.

    What a bunch of egotistical greens!

    • Indeed. As Momodu rightly said and I quote’Raise custom duty on essential food like wheat flour and this is the price we pay’ is one of the factors that led to the increase of the price of flour. Fair enough for him to draw that conclusion.

      Another problem expressed by the bakers is the quality of the flour imported into the country. Is the standard department of Sierra Leone doing its job? The government should look into their activities and performance and make changes were necessary.
      We have all criticised or make our views known. Fair enough. What we can also do is to give some solutions as to what to do next to try to solve not only the flour issue but other essential commodity issues because of the recent austerity measures taking by the government..

      In my opinion, the government should try and construct a flour milling in the country or find investors to do it. Just import the wheat and mill it, which will be cheaper than importing the flour. It will also help create jobs.

      Secondly, the government must start looking into wheat cultivation in areas of the country where wheat grows best. The government can also consult countries like Argentina and Brazil who have embarked on such agricultural projects. These projects are doing fine in these countries. The temperatures there are just like what we we have in some areas of Kono and Koinadugu.

      I have been there and know what I am talking about.
      With regards to austerity which might have played a role in the increase of taxes on imported goods, the government must find a smarter way to to get out of the deficit or government spending.

      In my view, the government have chosen taxation to reduce the deficit. I find this extreme for a country like Sierra Leone which has suffered a lot with the civil war, the Ebola, the mud slide and corruption to name a few.
      The deficit in simple terms is when the government spends more than the revenue it receives(mainly from TAXATION).

      There are a few ways to bring down the deficit depending on the economical situation of the country. The government is not oblige to use any of the options; but it is vital that any government just use common sense to bring down the deficit.

      This is what I will suggest that the government should do:

      Don’t be forced by the IMF to take measures that will leave your people hungry and later become angry(by demonstrating and putting up fierce strikes) against you. Remember, a hungry man is an angry man. From history, must governments have faced fierce strikes and demonstrations from their citizens because of austerity measures acceptable to the IMF by their governments.

      Leave certain subsidies(flour, petrol etc) in place; Reduce the size of the government and the embassies(these can be merged were necessary); Freeze salary increase for the president, ministers and highly placed civil servants; Reduce military hardware budget because their is no threat of war at the moment; Increase the retirement age so that people will work more.

      Remember that there are no jobs for the youth at the moment. Who will pay for the pensioners when the youths who will take their place have no jobs.

      Increase land taxes; Make all government contracts and transactions with the amounts involved public for people to compete in the eyes of the public; Reduce spending on banquets, unnecessary travels etc.

      Mr. President, instead of your government using taxation to reduce the deficit, I would like the government to take the Economic Growth option which is friendly and will not bring a lot of hardship to your people. Finally, it is always better to take from the rich and give the poor that to take from the poor and give to the rich.

      THINK ABOUT THAT MR. PRESIDENT. We want to see you succeed. Believe me and GOD BLESS. AMEN AND AMEN.

  3. Many thanks for drawing my attention to this news. May Allah continue to soften it for the mercies who are finding it hard to get the basic necessities. Many thanks with kind regards – Haja Khan.

  4. No country nation can progress or develop without the full participation of citizens of all class or gender.

    No man can do it by themselves. If you are blessed to have a president who is willing and ready to work, that is impossible for other African leaders. Let us all meet him, his wife and the government half way.

    People support their tribe or religion but this should have nothing to do with it; development brings happiness

  5. What for heaven’s sake is the Ministry of Agriculture doing up till now on wheat cultivation in Sierra Leone? Don’t they have a solution to this wheat problem for making bread with all those agricultural and soil scientists? Or are they waiting for some miracles to bring wheat to the people of Sierra Leone to make bread cheap or free?

    Sierra Leone has the areas to grow wheat. They know that. However, I will give some information to help with the situation.
    Wheat does not grow in tropical climates or in low lands. But certain adaptations can be made, especially with irrigation to achieve this goal.

    If irrigation is expensive as it has always been, why does the government not exploit the KKP(Koinadugu and Kono Plateau) eco-regions. These are all highland areas and wheat grows best in such areas.

    Government should now put pressure on the ministry of agriculture to do some research and studies in these areas of the country to cultivate wheat.

    The government is spending millions of dollars every year to import wheat for making bread and other things. Why can’t they spend a few thousand dollars to carry out a research on wheat production and produce wheat? Simple as that.

    Please Mr. President, give directives to the minister of agriculture to start research on the cultivation of wheat in the highlands of Sierra Leone. Even a little amount of wheat production per year will help reduce wheat importation cost.

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