The High Cost of Cheap Sheger Bread Loaves

Nov 20 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

The first time I heard about the client experience of the much talked about Sheger Bread & Flour factory was from my brother’s friend, whose five-year-old daughter's healthy teeth were uprooted while she tried to take a bite.

Then comes my surprising encounter with how much of a colossal sacrifice people go through to buy the rationed eight loaves of bread, which sell for 10 Br. People I met at the company’s retail stations, which are repurposed Anbessa buses parked in various parts of Addis Abeba, told me they come to stand in a queue at four in the morning. It is not guaranteed that they go home with the bread as it comes in great short supply.

At the time, there were people in Megenagna who braved the piercing cold. They check multiple stations before lining up at the one that has a shorter line. Some come with various family members to buy more rounds of the eight loaves of bread that are allotted and avoid coming on the next day.

Hundreds of people sit for a minimum of three hours on average before the loaves of bread come in the morning. It was difficult for me to see people as it was dark when morning came; I have seen and met children as young as seven among those queuing alone for bread. These children come at night with their mothers, who leave them to buy and come back to their home by themselves in the morning.

These mothers bring their children and quickly run back home to bake the injerathey sell starting early in the morning. They have no choice but to place some of their burdens on their young children’s fragile shoulders who are supposed to be cared for and nurtured instead of left alone on the streets in the middle of the night with strangers. The children say they are always tired and cold, even during the sunny day and sleep at school even during lesson times.

“The teachers understand our problems, so they do not punish us when we sleep during lesson times, but they come and kindly wake us up,” one of them told me.

These children have matured beyond their age, carrying many responsibilities in life. Their developing country has robbed them of what kids in most other countries take for granted.

There were men who came late in the morning, disregarding the queue trying to cut lines. Thankfully, the customers have volunteers who deal with such undisciplined people. The people who gather around the retail stations have become friends. The hours they spent together on a cold night and the incredible challenges they are going through together has bonded them.

It is difficult to wake up that early, walk in the dark and sit for hours just to buy rationed, parched, and tasteless loaves of bread. Like the children and all those I spoke to that early morning, I was cold and tired the entire sunny day. I struggled to do what they do every single day for a day. It is very hard to comprehend how children are doing this day in and out. It is heartbreaking to witness how many are suffering to get their breakfast.

They say the painful process they go through to buy loaves of bread is worth it. The bread we buy from the private shops is not enough for infants, let alone adults, they explained. Most other bakeries sell eight pieces of bread for four times the amount they will find from Sheger. And the kids are grateful. Their eyes are always on the lookout for trucks. There is a smile on some of their faces and relief on many others as they see the truck from afar because it means there is bread, and their time is not wasted. But there have also been days when they line up for hours and are told the bread has sold out.

There were better days for Sheger customers where the children and adults could buy it during the day without much hassle. They say the pieces of bread were of good quality and size. Gone are those good days for them. Now, the loaves of bread are rationed and come in short supply.

The children are determined to continue their tough routine, hoping for better days to come. They wish to see the day more loaves of bread are available at lower prices so they can focus on their education.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 20,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1125]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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