Blazing heat radiated from the wood-fired oven of the Bethel Brothers Bakery in Ghana’s capital Accra, as a dozen men hastily shaped dough into hundreds of rolls that would be scattered through the city the following morning.
The bakery, founded nearly 25 years ago by childhood friends Raphael Borketey and David Eshun, churns out hundreds of loaves of bread each day for households, restaurants and street traders but spiralling inflation could soon shut its doors.
“Every month they increase the price of flour… sugar, margarine, all things that we need to produce bread,” Borketey said. “You try to stand, then a new (price increase) will come and knock you down again.”
Supply chain bottlenecks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a depreciating national currency and other global market factors have sent inflation spiralling over the past nine months to its highest levels since 2016, with the country’s consumer price inflation hitting 15.7 per cent in February.
Cereals have seen some of the steepest price rises – and that was before the Russian invasion of Ukraine last month further stretched global commodity markets, particularly wheat. Ghana imports nearly a quarter of its wheat from Russia, according to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity.
The inflation has been disastrous for bakeries, whose sales prices are standardised by the national bakers’ association and have not risen since August.
Many have had to reduce portion size or illegally hike prices to stay afloat. Bethel Brothers is laden with debt and has been forced to lay off staff.
“We have sacrificed a lot (and) this (inflation) could bring it all to an end,” Borketey said. “A bad month or year can put you out of business. It’s very painful.”
Eshun still sets off before dawn each morning to deliver fresh bread to faithful customers from a rackety delivery van held together with pins and wire.
But these days he can barely afford fuel and has been running out between stops.
The 45-year-old’s doctor says he is in dire need of sleep, another luxury Eshun said he cannot afford.
“I am a born and bred Ghanaian. I have never travelled anywhere before. This is my country,” Eshun said. “If I cannot make it in my own country, then where am I going to make it?” – Reuters