Speaking at the Federation of Bakers (FoB) annual lunch in London yesterday, FoB chaiman Fairweather said that sharp rises in wheat costs (in particular trader speculation on stocks) was a major problem, while rising oil prices had also increased transport, energy and packaging costs.
“There is significant inflationary pressure fueling our input commodity prices,” said Fairweather. “It’s more about managing risk today than it is about buying flour.”
He warned that the exceptionally dry weather conditions being experienced this year could also adversely affect yields and drive up the price of wheat. “I would ask our customers to recognise that this is the world we live in,” he said.
Folic acid fortification revisited
In a wide-ranging presentation, Fairweather also reported that proposals to introduce folic acid fortification of flour, which had been dropped due to objections from some medical experts, could re-emerge.
Following earlier scientific advice, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) had advised the previous Labour government that there was a good case for generic fortification of flour as a means of reducing incidents of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in babies. However, the proposals were dropped because of potential problems it might cause in masking B12 deficiency in some groups of elderly people.
But Fairweather suggested the coalition government was considering reviewing this decision. “It is possible folic acid may be back on the agenda,” he said.
“The FoB has always taken the view that it is not for us to decide the medical merits of folic acid, in terms fortification. If fortification is to take place we do, however, have a legitimate voice in how fortification should be carried out. Consideration should also be given to what consumer reaction should be.”