(Philippine Star) MANILA, Philippines – Bakers said their supply of bread will last only until Monday if flour millers continue to refuse to sell flour.
Industry sources said the flour shortage was a direct result of the order by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) forcing flour millers to cut their price by as much as P160 per bag.
Philippine Baking Industry (Philbaking) president Walter Co said five millers have stopped deliveries as of Tuesday night and they account for about 50 percent of total supply in the market.
Co said they have sent a letter to the DTI last Wednesday. “The directive to millers by DTI is to sell at P680 per bag and if they charge higher then they will be sanctioned so flour millers decided not to sell rather than be charged in court,” Co said.
Likewise, Philippine Baking Industry (Philbaking) past president and Gardenia president Simplicio Umali said that flour millers are already cancelling their deliveries. “Five millers have informed our group that they will not be able to deliver,” Umali said.
Umali warned that they can shut down their operations next week if the shortage continues. “This is the first time in 11 years that we come into a situation so we are in a panic situation now,” he explained.
“We have started to reduce the output to stretch the availability of bread for a longer time. We can supply bread until Saturday and Sunday but by Monday we are not sure anymore if we can operate if the supply does not come,” Umali said.
Umali said that the order price is at P740 which is above the DTI mandated P630 to P680 per bag. With the current situation, Umali urged the government and the flour millers to come out with a price that is acceptable to both parties.
“I am in favor that prices should be evaluated but it should not affect the supply. DTI should listen as to what the real prices in the world market is,” he noted.
In a separate interview, Trade Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya said that they are looking into the shortage allegations. “We have to verify.” She said DTI operatives are currently checking on the millers.
If it is true that millers are refusing to sell their flour, Maglaya said the DTI will charge them with hoarding. “If we need to forcibly enter their plants to check if there is really no flour we will,” she said. “We have police power,” Maglaya stressed.
Maglaya said one miller has already agreed to lower their price. Delta Milling Corp. is now selling flour for P650 per bag.
Meanwhile, Universal Robina Corp. (URC), one of the five flour millers accused of holding the supply which created the artificial shortage said yesterday they are not hoarding flour.
URC together with Morning Star Flour, Philippine Foremost Milling Corporation, Liberty Mills and Wellington Flour Mills were accused of not selling flour after the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ordered that flour be sold at P630 to P680 per bag. The five control 50 percent of the market.
Philippine Association of Flour Millers (PAFMIL) executive director Ric M. Pinca said that was wrong in accusing the flour millers of not delivering flour.
“They have all denied that they are not selling flour,” Pinca said. Trade officials cracked down on flour millers after the reported shortage. Pinca said Aileen Ongkauko, president of Philippine Foremost said trade inspectors were at their plants yesterday and witnessed the delivery of flour.
At the same time, Pinca said millers will follow the order of the DTI. “At first we did not understand the order but now we are complying.”
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