Bread prices going up, too

‘Pan de sal’ to cost 25% more on April 15
By Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:55:00 04/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Starting April 15, P10 will buy you only four small pieces of pan de sal, the breakfast fare of Filipinos, instead of today’s five because bakers are raising their prices to reflect soaring flour prices amid low global supply.

Three umbrella groups of bread makers Thursday announced that pan de sal would cost 16 percent to 25 percent more.

“The result of these price adjustment is that the price of pan de sal would go up to P2.50 apiece from P2 for the small size, and P3.50 from P3 for the regular size,” said Lucito B. Chavez, vice president of the Philippine Federation of Bakers Association.

A 25-kilogram bag of flour now costs up to P990, a 71-percent increase from P580 in June 2007, according to Chavez.

Prices of wheat, from which flour is derived, have jumped 149 percent since April 2007 and 50 percent since last December, according to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, an economic adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A combination of high oil and fuel prices, rising demand for food in wealthier Asia, the use of farmland and crops for biofuels, bad weather and speculation on futures markets have all combined to push up prices of rice, wheat and other food items, prompting violent protests in several poor countries.

Also set to raise the prices of bakery products next week are the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association and the Labak Bakers Association, a group of bakeries based in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon that mainly produces pan de sal.

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A Viable Variation of Pan De Sal

In the face of the ricing price of rice and other basic commodities -- as if it is not already an overwhelming burden for the poor -- this another looming increase in the price of bread and wheat-based flour products could mean more reduction in their food intake. To the poorest class of our society living in urban areas who are without stable livelihood, this would mean more drastic survival measures. This means that their "pangtawid gutom" food stuffs like noodles and pan de sal (which are made from wheat flour) will no longer be affordable to them as before. This means that some meals must be skipped more often than before. And for how long?

Involuntarily missing one meal a day is mild hunger -- and some people can still endure it by drinking water (if occurring regularly, the body's metabolism will adjust and develop a way of coping with the situation. I myself purposely skip a meal a day regularly for a reason). But missing two meals a day for a sustained period of time is already severe hunger (local folks termed it, "one day one eat"), and this is when food riots could start to happen.

In big urban areas where there exist large number of urban poors, the possibility of artificial hunger to intensify is not remote. Unlike in rural areas, there are no land spaces available for the urban poors suitable enough for them to grow alternative garden crops and vegetations that can be utilized to compensate for their lack of the usual staple food stuffs.

In our tropical country, root crops like sweet potato ("kamote") and cassava ("balanghoy" in bisaya, "kamoteng kahoy" in tagalog) are used by many people in the rural areas as the main alternatives for rice and bread.

In my province, cassava is grown more abudantly than sweet potato because of its startch. In Carmen, Bohol (the only place on earth where the Chocolate Hills can be found), the Philippine Startch Corporation (PhilStartch) produces and exports cassava flour.

Since cassava flour is far more cheaper than wheat flour, some enterprising home bakers in our province tried using cassava flour in the mixture of the major ingredient (flour) in making pan de sal. After many trials and errors, they come up with a viable variation of the pan de sal. They first tried selling it at an almost give-away price to their neighborhood just in order to get feedback about the taste and texture of their product. After improvements to the taste and texture were made, they experimented on the size and price of the product until they come up with a configuration which the consumers accepted with considerable fairness.

Now, more and more people in more barangays have come to know about the product because some enterprising school boys made use of their vacation season earning something by peddling this food stuff in local neighborhoods very early in the morning waking the people with their shouts, "pan de sal!" For a price of ten pesos a dozen (or five pesos for every six-piece pack), local folks have learned to patronize it.

There is a distinguishable difference in its taste compared to the ususal pan de sal which is made from the first class wheat flour, but it is good! Although its size is smaller than the usual standard pan de sal, but its weight is just about 20%-30% less. Its smell is similar to the usual pan de sal and its texture is tender and somewhat dense. All in all, it is delicious, "nakakabusog", and very affordable! Eating six pieces of it which only costs five pesos, and matched it with a cup of hot ginger tea ("salabat") which only costs about one peso, the combination is already a very affordable "breakfast."

I don't know of course the formula of the recipe but it is a viable alternative to the usual wheat-based pan de sal that could help answer the food needs of our poor kababayans who depend primarily on pan de sal for their breakfast.

In crisis, wherein affordability becomes the only language of the poor, it is a great injustice to take advantage of them.

(The photo shown above was my pan de sal and ginger tea breakfast this morning.)