Bakery owners warn of upcoming wheat flour shortage

  • Apparent tug-of-war between CAA and flour manufacturers

By Dinitha Rathnayake

The All-Ceylon Bakery Owners’ Association warned of a possible wheat flour shortage in the coming days due to an attempt by wheat flour manufacturers to increase prices.

Speaking to The Morning, Association President N. K. Jayawardana said that bakery owners are experiencing a shortage of wheat flour at the moment as well.

“We had to increase the price of a basic loaf of bread by Rs. 5, other bakery products by Rs. 10 each, and 1 kg of cake increased by Rs. 100 from Monday 23 August, since we had no choice,” he noted.

“At the moment, 40% of bakeries are not in functioning level due to the pandemic. Our sales have dropped immensely, and only 25% are running mobile services, while some bakeries had to close due to the current situation,” he added.

According to Jayawardana, there are around 7,000 bakeries islandwide, of which 60% are facing issues in continuing their business.

“I don’t think it is a good time for us to face a wheat flour shortage, since the two companies who provide flour might try to hold their stocks due to their demand for a price increase,” he claimed.

He was referring to the decision by Prima Ceylon (Pvt.) Ltd. to increase the price of a kilogramme of wheat flour by Rs. 12 on Friday (3).

However, the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) has not granted approval to this increase in price. The CAA said wheat flour companies have not been given permission to increase their product prices on their own.

Meanwhile, National Movement for Consumer Rights Protection Chairman Ranjith Vithanage claimed that Prima’s announcement of a price hike on their wheat flour is outright illegal.

According to Article 20 (5) of the Consumer Affairs Authority Act No.9 of 2003, any price hike of wheat flour requires the approval of the CAA, he pointed out. Vithanage noted that no such approval had been granted to Prima, and thus the current MRP of a kilo of wheat flour should remain at Rs. 87.