Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On which side to butter

The biggest bad news to hit us this week is that the price of wheat has risen. According to a spokesman for the State Mill being interviewed on the radio this morning, we import 28,000 tons of wheat a year but the prices are now around 230-237 euros per ton. That grain becomes the total source of white flour (or "Farin France", French flour as we call it) produced and sold in Haiti.

This increase is already felt here in the price of bread. A baguette of French bread as gone from 15 gourdes ($0.41 US) to 24 gourdes ($0.65 US). A messenger boy at work told me that the breakfast egg sandwich has shrunk to a pitiful size on the streets, while it's price stays the same. This is a staple for many Haitians who do no eat at home before they leave for school or work.

Sliced bread, already above the 30 gourdes mark, is sure to tople over into the 40 gourdes or, more dramatically, the 50 gourdes bracket. Unfortunately, I was not able to access the news websites (server restrictions at work) to give you a sampling of what is being said about this situation.

That same spokesman mentioned above tried to be positive and reassuring. Apparently, they haven't noticed any dramatic change in the sales of flour to the bakeries around town.

He goes further to explain this more expensive wheat on...biofuel! According to him, the growing market for ethanol has not only put corn and cane in the spotlight but has put more pressure on wheat since it seems to be replaced by those two other crops.

Notice this is not what the article linked to above says at all.

I'm not a big bread eater so I don't feel concerned yet. But this is bad news for us all, most especially the parents who are already struggling to send their kids to school. I remember eating quite a number of sandwiches over the years.

Tuition is one thing, but lunch is another. When you're lucky enough to get one, that is.

Of course, we've always eaten a lot of root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, green plaintain, yams, bread fruit. I guess we're just going to have to eat them more.

Want to hear something ironic? Last month, the Minister of Economy was speaking to the House of Representatives Commerce Committee about how certains prices were actually lower. Nobody believed her then.

Now? Let's just laugh it off.