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Minister’s apology for Sudan bread shortage

February 13 - 2020 KHARTOUM
A bread bakery in Khartoum (File photo: alsagia.com)
A bread bakery in Khartoum (File photo: alsagia.com)

Sudan’s Minister of Industry and Trade Madani Abbas, has apologised to the Sudanese people for the lack of a solution to the bread shortage during the last three weeks. He affirmed the state’s commitment to continue subsidising bread until the end of the transitional period. The government currently subsidises a sack of flour by more than SDG 1,600 ($30*).

At a press conference in Khartoum yesterday, Abbas assured that flour stocks are sufficient until May and that the government is in the process of signing agreements to secure wheat until the end of the year.

He said that the ministry identified the weight of the loaf of bread by 45 grams for one Sudanese Pound*.

Madani said that the ministry is in the process of giving permits to commercial bakeries within 45 days according to strict controls, on condition that commercial bread is distinct in shape and size from the subsidised loaves. He noted that up to half of the subsidised four is ‘leaked’ illegally by smuggling or being sold to restaurants and sweet-makers.

He explained that the ministry is in the process of launching an electronic monitoring system which will be in place within a month to control wheat, flour, and bread in the import, production and distribution phases, all the way to the bread distribution windows. He says that a special police department is to be established to secure the supplies of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and a hotline will be launched to receive public complaints about flour and bread.

‘Hoarding flour is a crime’

Madani said that the licenses of agents who not committed to deliver flour to bakeries will be withdrawn. Likewise, he threatened to withdraw the licence and close-down any bakery does not adhere to the production of the bread. He said illegal storage of bread and flour is a crime punishable by law.

He said that the Ministry had made great strides in building a basic information base. He attributed the current acute crisis to flour smuggling and production-related problems in mills and distribution, “great chaos, distortions and imbalances in the flour and bread sector” during the last period.

He explained that the Ministry received 5,000 proposals to address the bread crisis, and praised the role of the public and the role of the resistance committees in monitoring during the last period.

Madani highlighted a number of proposals for solutions in the medium and long term by increasing the percentage of flour extraction so that it is not suitable for purposes other than making bread, in addition to studying the old proposal by mixing wheat with sorghum. He is also studying the option of direct subsidy for the bread instead of subsidising the flour

Mona Gureshi, Director of the Office of the Minister of Industry and Trade said that there are five mills and 131 agents in Khartoum and the states and 13,760 bakeries in all parts of the country.

Disruptions

As reported by Radio Dabanga this week, Khartoum and several state capitals experienced severe fuel and bread shortages on Saturday and Sunday. This caused public transport disruptions, an increase of the cost of public transport, and limited transport of goods to the markets.

The fuel crisis caused long queues of vehicles in front of petrol stations in Khartoum. Many people were forced to walk to their work or to the market.

The quantity of flour distributed in the states has decreased, which exacerbated the bread crisis. A loaf of bread costs up to five Pounds on the black market in Sennar and El Gezira.

Last week, the price of a loaf of bread in El Gezira ranged from three to four Pounds. For comparison: in September 2019 people in Kassala complained that bread was sold “at the commercial price of two Pounds apiece”.

* USD 1 = SDG 51.62 at time of posting. As effective foreign exchange rates can vary in Sudan, Radio Dabanga bases all SDG currency conversions on the daily middle US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS).


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