By Nelson Manneh
The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has decided to temporarily suspend operations of all “bikers” from Kanifing Municipality to Brikama, in the distribution of bread with immediate effect for a period of three months
Efforts to reach Abdoulie Jammeh, Deputy Director at the Ministry of Trade to shed light on this development, proved futile. Meanwhile a press release issued by Government to suspend the ‘bikers’ from bread distribution can be read below:
Given the current market failure in the bread industry, and after thorough negotiations with the operators in the entire value chain, and consultations with regulatory authorities including the National Assembly Select Committee on Trade to regularize the situation, parties could not agree on a consensus solution.
The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has therefore decided to temporarily suspend operations of all bikers (including bicycles), from Kanifing Municipality to Brikama, in the distribution of bread with immediate effect for a period of three months. This decision is to allow the Ministry to put in place a long-lasting solution (regulatory instrument), for the conduct of business in the bread sector. In the areas mentioned, bakeries are therefore responsible for the distribution of their own bread to the community.
In this regard, bakeries should supply bread directly to shops or kiosks for sale. Shops and kiosks are equally urged to get their supplies directly from any bakery they want to get their supplies from.
To ensure sanity in the industry, the Ministry of Trade has included bread as an essential commodity through Legal Notice 5 of 2019 and henceforth, operators in the bread industry including distributors, will be required to comply with the requirements set by the Ministry for the production and distribution of bread.
The General public is further informed that the Ministry is finalizing a regulation on bread which will ensure standard, quality, safety and hygiene, in the production and distribution of bread. Once the development of the regulation is complete, operators will be required to register as a business and obtain a license from the Food Safety and Quality Authority, to operate.
The cooperation of the general public and operators in the bread industry, is highly solicited.’’
Foroyaa has earlier learnt that bread suppliers who serve as middlemen in the distribution of bread from bakeries to shops locally called ‘Bikers’, have stopped supplying bread.
During the weekend, people residing in the Grater Banjul Area experienced scarcity of bread especially ‘Senfour’. Some were seen moving from one shop to another, in search of bread, the country’s most common staple food used for breakfast. And as the bread saga continues to prevail, consumers were becoming more worried of the issue amid preparations for the fast approaching Muslim month of Ramadan.
On Saturday May 4th 2019, this reporter visited communities within the Kanifing Municipality and met some food vendors who said they do not have any bread to sell with their prepared stew or whatever; that they cannot sell without bread. They further complained that the ‘bikers’ should have given them notice of their decision to stop distributing bread.
Lamarana Jallow, a ‘biker’ who supplies within Tallinding, said he was called by his colleagues who told him they were not supplying bread and would like him to do the same; that they are not making enough profit compared to the work they do and the efforts they took to invest in the trade. He expressed his disappointment for not being commended by the people they serve bread.
“We wake up very early in the morning to collect bread from the bakeries for distribution to various shops and vendors within the communities. We do not make any significant profit and our efforts are still not recognized by the people we serve. This makes me feel disappointed by the people,” he said. He said they have not embarked on full time strike, but want to see if the shopkeepers will be able to collect bread every day for themselves.
Abubacarr Bah a shopkeeper, said he did not know the reason behind the ‘bikers’ decision to stop distributing bread; that what he speculates is that the ‘bikers’ were in for a price increase in bread. He said when this did not happen, they decided to sit down and stop the distribution of bread. “I called my supplier and he told me that he will not be coming with the supply. That if I want bread, let me go to the bakery myself. My supplier told me clearly that they are not making any profit and will not ‘kill’ themselves,” he said. Bah said Government should do something to end the supply of bread especially with the fast approaching month of Ramadan.
Mariatou Colley a vendor who sells stew said she has never gone to any bakery to get her daily supply of bread. “I have a supplier who brings bread for me every day. If the ‘bikers’ decide not to supply, this will affect us greatly,” she said. Mariatou said people are not used to buying bread from bakeries but shops.
Lamin Ndow, a baker, told Foroyaa that they are not responsible for the problem; that they have not stopped any ‘biker’ to distribute bread from their shop; adding ‘bikers’ just want the price of bread to be increased, which has been their complain throughout this period. Ndow urges the shopkeepers to look for bread from bakeries from now; noting as times goes on, they will get used to it.
Some ‘bikers’ blame bakeries for the problem saying most bakeries do not want to cooperate with them to improve their plight; that these bakeries make more profit than them (the bikers).