The American Bakers Asso- ciation (ABA) has called on the US government to take action to halt above-average food price inflation.

Speaking at a Joint Economic Committee on high food prices on May 1, ABA president and chief executive Robb MacKie said: "Food inflation in the first quarter of this year almost matched the rate for all of 2007, which places a tremendous burden on families. There are steps Congress and the administration can take that would ease this burden on American families.

"The high costs of commo-dities have driven up the price for essential foodstuffs at the grocery store," he added. "While there are many factors as to why commodity prices are so high, the effects of the government’s ethanol policy and land retirement programmes cannot be ignored."

The association is calling for a balance of land use for growing crops for alternative fuels and traditional agriculture. Speaking on behalf of the ABA, Rich Reinwald, owner of Reinwald’s Bakery and first vice-president of the Retail Bakers of America, said: "Why are we putting food in our gas tanks instead of in our stomachs?"

l Spiralling wheat prices and flour shortages continue to cause chaos around the globe. In Nigeria, hundreds of bakers have gone on strike in protest over rising flour prices. In Pakistan, the government has convened a task force to ensure that adequate supplies get to deficient parts of the country.


=== Consumer Tracking ===

== Sandwich sales ==

The British Sandwich Association’s report (see Reporting In, below), provides some fascinating insights into consumer habits.

The average price of a commercially-made sandwich has hit a new high at £1.85, it says. Chicken continues to be the most popular sandwich filling - last year, 39,700 tonnes of chicken went into sandwiches compared to 8,250 tonnes of ham and 6,500 tonnes of cheese.

Sales of wraps were down by 1% in volume over the past year and now account for 3% of the sandwich market. By contrast, bagel sales have grown by 66% from a small base, and now account for around 1% of sandwich sales.

The real challenge for the future, the report says, is for the commercial sandwich market to persuade consumers to buy sandwiches rather than making their own at home.

The report suggests that the industry needs to focus more closely on the lunchbox market as a category in its own right.The report is available from the BSA for £1,300 + VAT (£975 + VAT for BSA members).