Tuesday, 27 September, 2022

Philippine bakeries shrink 'poor man's bread' as inflation bites

As the war in Ukraine pushes up wheat prices and a weaker peso raises the cost of imported edible oil, many Philippine bakers are shrinking the size of a popular breakfast roll to cope with higher inflation.

The slightly sweet and pillowy soft "pandesal", which Filipinos often dunk in coffee or stuff with cheese, used to weigh 35 grams at Matimyas Bakery, a breadmaker in suburban Manila.

But as the cost of local and imported ingredients soared in recent months, co-owner Jam Mauleon gradually reduced the size of the roll -- known as the "poor man's bread" because it is cheap -- to around 25 grams to avoid raising the 2.50 peso (about $0.04) price.

She feared that even a slight increase would send cash-strapped customers in her neighbourhood to a rival bakery five blocks away.

"We had to reduce the serving size to survive," Mauleon told AFP, as children, workers and retirees arrived early to buy rolls baked in a brick oven that morning.

As the Philippines lifted Covid-19 restrictions and schoolchildren began returning to the classroom this year, Mauleon had hoped economic conditions for the bakery would improve.
But since December, as wheat and fuel prices surged, the price of flour has increased by more than 30 percent, while sugar is up 25 percent and salt costs 40 percent more, she said.

The bakery survives day to day and does not make enough money to buy ingredients in bulk, leaving it vulnerable to changing prices in domestic and international markets.

After reducing the number of employees and absorbing higher costs, Mauleon was forced this week to raise the price of a pandesal by 20 percent to three pesos.

Shrinking the size of the roll any further would affect its quality, she said.