06/18/2010, 00.00
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No bread for Filipinos because five flour mills go on “strike”

The five millers meet 50 per cent of the country’s demand in flour. They threaten to stop sales in protest against a Department of Trade and Industry decision to slash prices.
Manila (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – A “strike” by five flour mills is striking fear in Filipinos who might find themselves without bread on Monday. The five millers meet 50 per cent of the market needs. A few days ago, they said they would stop selling flour by 15 June in protest against the decision by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to cut the cost of a an average bag by as much 160 pesos, from 790 to 630, (US$ 17.2 to US$ 13.7). The DTI has not yet determined whether sales have actually stopped but bakers are deeply concerned that they might run out of flour.

Simplicio Umali, president of Gardenia Bakeries, said that flour millers are already cancelling their deliveries. “Five millers have informed our group that they will not be able to deliver,” Umali said.

Umali warned that his company would shut down operations in three days time if the shortage continues. “We can supply bread until Saturday and Sunday but by Monday we are not sure anymore if we can operate if the supply does not come”.

DTI Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya said that they are looking into the shortage allegations. “We have to verify,” she said, adding that DTI officials are already inspecting flour mills.

Philippine Association of Flour Millers (PAFMIL) Executive Director Ric M. Pinca said it was wrong to accuse the flour millers of not delivering flour. In fact, no miller has stopped selling, despite their protest against price cuts.

Millers will follow the DTI order, he said. “At first, we did not understand the order,” he explained, “but now we are complying.”

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