By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba – Barely a year and half after its much-hailed inauguration, Sheger Bakery, a Bakery which was expected to cater millions in Addis Abeba with subsidized and consistent bread supply, has ceased production, leaving the city’s growing number of low income families in despair.
Consumers who spoke to Addis Standard, said that although Sheger Bakery had never fully addressed the problem associated with price and break supply, especially to the city’s low-income families, it has contributed significantly to the community. The grinding halt in the supply of bread has now affected millions.
Zenebech Kelem Work, a customer, said that the situation has a profound effect on her. “I used to get up in the morning to buy the bread for my children because the price was very low. 1 Birr and 20 cents was the price of one loaf of bread, whereas in private bakeries it costs up to 3 Birr and 50 cents or more. This is the only thing the government has provided for the low-income community but now it stopped working. The customers were almost entirely part of the low-income residents of the city,” she told Addis Standard.
Andargachew, a day laborer living in the city, is another customer left in despair. “I always line up to buy the bread. Because a single Injera [a sour flat Ethiopian bread] costs 10 ETB. I always take my lunch with bread to my work. Be it pastries or regular shops, they sell Injera at a higher price. Sheger bread was very important for the low-income community and should not have stopped operating,” he said.
“This is the only thing the government has provided for the low-income community but now it stopped working. The customers were almost entirely part of the low-income residents of the city,”Zenebech Kelem Work
Built by MIDROC Ethiopia, which is owned by the Ethio-Saudi billionaire, Sheikh Mohammed Hussien Al Amoudi, at a cost of 900 million birr, this state-of-the-art bakery was expected to produce 1.8 million loaves of bread a day and 80,000 per hour, according to a statement distributed at its inauguration back in June 2020.
“The Sheger Bakery, which took 10 months from conception to finalization, is symbolic of our path to prosperity. Producing 80,000 pieces of bread per hour, availing it at affordable prices will contribute to food security in Addis Abeba and the surrounding cities,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hailed the concept at the inauguration of the Bakery, which was also attended by senior city administration officials, including then deputy mayor Takele Uma, who was credited for initiating the concept.
But already, as far back as January 2021, just six months into its inauguration, the Bakery had stated that it had lost 70 million birr in the first five months alone, and attributed the loss to the price hikes and lack of inputs. However, despite the challenges, the Bakery was able to produce between 700,000 to 800,000 loaves of bread per day and was distributing its products to city residents through more than 400 retail shops located in and around Addis Abeba, including from converted city buses.
Abdulrahman Ahmedin, Director of Corporate Communication and Promotion, complained at the time that the price of the bread Sheger Bakery was providing to its costumers had never matched the price of the inputs it needed for the procurement of wheat and the production process.
It was stated that Addis Abeba City Administration and Sheger Bakery and Flour Factory have jointly agreed to sale the products at reasonable prices. Speaking to party affiliated FanaBC, Addis Abeba Trade Bureau Head, Adam Nur, admitted that the Bakery has ceased production and supply, said that the office was evaluating a question raised in relation to input price hikes. He said that the City Administration was subsidizing the Bakery to a tune of 309 million birr annually. Sheger Bakery was covering 50% of the expenses. The City Administration is working to alleviate the problem to see Sheger Bakery resume its works. Mekonnen Teshome, MIDROC investment Group Communication and Advertising Director, on his part said that shortage of input has forced the Bakery to halt production and that he hoped that collaboration with relevant stakeholders will see the return of production very soon.
Addis Standard’s attempts to contact both MIDROC Ethiopia and Addis Ababa City Administration for further explanations were to no avail. AS