Wheat prices are very volatile at the moment and the impact on this industry should not be underestimated (pg 4). A few months ago bread prices going over the £1 mark made headlines in many of the national newspapers. Last week I wrote about a range of Sainsbury’s in-store speciality breads now selling at £1.69.
Everyone is going to have to get used to paying realistic prices for bread, and industry suppliers throughout the whole chain must have their fair share!
The pressure on wheat is from all sources - most recently the apalling weather - as well as low world stocks and demand for bioethanol. If farmers believe that bioethanol offers an increasing market, more will go for it and ’grow for it’.
Certainly ABF, parent company of Allied Bakeries and Allied Mills, believes it has massive potential. ABF cites the government’s commitment to biofuel production as a key reason for its tie-up with BP and DuPont this week (pg 8). The company expects its £200m biofuel plant to be built in Hull will show a fast return.
Meanwhile, commodity price increases for bread, cake and biscuit ingredients are also taking effect, so another flour price rise before the harvest will hit hard.
Apart from price volatility, another problem this industry faces is getting its point across to those who need to hear it in government. We need to speak with a united voice on major issues - or be ignored altogether. It is a point made by our Friday Essayist this week, John Gillespie (pg 13). I seem to be forever reading about the Meat & Livestock Commission and the Potato Council. These industry bodies speak with one voice; baking speaks with about a dozen. I know there are differences between the plant and craft industry, for example, but for lobbying purposes surely all can unite under one banner, supported by the millers and ingredient and equipment suppliers? For me the obvious place to start is the Federation of Bakers. By sheer size of members (not numbers), it has the loudest voice.
Bakery is the biggest, the very biggest, single sector of the food industry. Yet not enough youngsters are training in bakery, the milling or cereal food science. And that’s just one issue! We need a Bakery Council or Bakery Commission. We need to be heard with one voice.