Emmanuel Onuorah, the president of the Premium Breadmakers Association of Nigeria, says: BABATUNDE TUGBOBO about his career and issues affecting the break-making business
Of the current rise in the price of bread, what does the future hold for bread consumers and bakers?
I can speak for the bakers, but not for the consumers. As chairman of an association that bakes bread, I can tell you that it is a difficult time for us (bakers). We suffer. Jobs are lost every day as bakeries close and are in a coma. It has been difficult for us so far, after COVID-19.
Which stage of the baking process consumes the most money necessitating the rise in bread prices?
All the stages involved consume a lot of money. Our raw materials are 100 percent imported.
Some people believe that because there is no regulation of food prices across the country, bread prices continue to rise at will. What is your reaction to that?
That’s the wrong way to think about it. Normally, if we want to pass the cost, sliced bread would now have to sell for a thousand naira, but we still have some going for N500, N550, N600, N650 and N700 depending on the ingredients used to make it. baking. We cover practically all layers of society. There is a correlation between higher prices and decreased sales, and it is a negative one. When prices rise, sales fall. It doesn’t benefit us in any way because once the price goes up, it affects sales.
What needs to be done to improve the current situation?
The first thing is for the government to make deliberate efforts to ensure that the duties that millers pay on wheat imports (30 percent) are either frozen or removed. It’s huge because no one anywhere in the world is doing that. The federal government should support small businesses through the direct intervention of the Bank of Industry of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, and help in the form of soft loans and grants. That will go a long way.
Some bakers are said to use substandard materials for baking. In what ways does your association checkmate such things?
To be a member of PBAN, you must subscribe to the country’s regulations, the NAFDAC regulations, you must not use any unhealthy material, you must have your standard operating procedure and your equipment must be properly calibrated. From time to time, compliance officers visit bakeries where they make their premix to know what they are using. Anyone using lesser quality materials (although we haven’t seen any) will be arrested and reported to authorities.
Aside from the rise in the prices of materials used in baking, what other challenges is the industry facing?
The rising cost of diesel is a challenge, erratic electricity supply is another, harassment of our members by law enforcement on the road is another, as is unnecessary taxation by local governments. Also, officials from health ministries in several states in Nigeria raided bakeries and beat people up without any notice.
Sometime last year, some bakers took to the streets to protest what they called ‘permanent exploitation’. How did you resolve the crisis?
Sincerely, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudasiru Obasa; the house’s trade committee and the contacts with the local government came across to us. They got all the agencies we complained about to sit with us in the meeting, and far-reaching decisions were made about who to meet if we had problems. Since then, the government of the state of Lagos has cooperated. In Lagos, harassment has decreased, but it is not the same in other states. Our protest was in Lagos because of the level of harassment we faced. We were also introduced to the Lagos State Employability Trust Fund, and they were helpful. They provide (our members) scholarships and loans once the requirements are met.
How do you foresee the bread prices in the coming days if you are not ticked?
Prices will continue to rise because it is a function of ‘garbage in, garbage out’. It’s what we buy that we sell. One cannot buy flour that used to be N10,300 for N29,000, and sell the finished products at the same price. If the prices of commodities continue to rise, one would have to keep increasing the price in order to be competitive, albeit not arbitrarily, but in a way that one will be able to break even.
How long have you been in the bread bin?
I’ve been doing this business for about six years now.
What attracted you to this industry?
I looked at the environment and wondered what I could do. I told myself to look at an everyday product that can make me money. With the payout I got from the company I worked for and the help from the bank, I was able to start the business.
Take us through your career path before you get to this point?
I started working in 1990 or thereabouts. Companies I have worked with over the years include Texaco, UMCC (where I worked as a contractor), ELPA (an oilfield engineering company), and South Atlantic Petroleum Limited, before retiring in 2015.
As a baker, how often do you eat bread in a week?
I am on the large side and bread is a heavy food so I take weight gain and obesity into account. I eat bread, but when I do, I try to burn it as much as possible by exercising. I eat it about once a week. I take toast bread with vegetables and a cup of tea so that it is balanced.
What are your educational qualifications?
I had my primary education at Olodi Primary School, Warri, Delta State. From there I went to Ogoripo Secondary School. Then I went to Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Delta State, where I obtained a higher national diploma. From there I went for a bachelor’s degree in Petroleum and Gas Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt. I have trained in various parts of the world including the United States of America, Tunisia, England and South Africa.
I am also a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals as well as a chartered environmentalist and environmental auditor.
What challenges do you face as president of the Premium Bakers Association of Nigeria?
I face many challenges as people in more than 30,000 bakeries across Nigeria look up to me. I need to give them adequate leadership, a shoulder to lean on, and the right strategy and direction for them.
What’s your favourite colour?
My favorite color is brown.
What is your favourite food?
My favorite food is fufu with bitter leaf soup. I also like starch with banga soup.
How do you relax?
I relax by being with my wife and children. We usually go to the beach together.