Traditional Goan bakers hit by increase in prices of raw material, labour cost

By Roque Dias | NT

MARGAO: The early-morning picture of Goan bakers ‘poders’ on bicycles accompanied by the hooting sound of typical orange rubber horns is a rare sight these days in many parts of Goa. The sale of traditionally-baked Goan bread ‘Pao’ has been hit by many factors.

Right from increase in prices of raw material like flour, toddy and yeast to the cost of firewood and labour, the traditional bakers are facing several problems which is making hard for them to continue with the business and keep the traditional vocation alive. With a gradual decline in sale of traditional Goan bread, traditional bakers are struggling for survival.

There are around 200 traditional Goan bakers in South Goa baking ‘paos’, ‘unos’, ‘katrepaos’ and ‘polleos’ (made of whole wheat husk which are preferred by the diabetic people."

"Labour crisis is the main problem we face. Goans are hardly working here. We are therefore forced to engage workers from the neighbouring states to run the business, or either give the bakeries on rent,’’ said a baker, Mr Antonio Jose Fernandes, who has let out his bakery to one of his former worker.

The vice president of the All Goa Bakers Association in South Goa, Mr Agostinho Gomes agrees that since bakery owners very often leave their bakeries at the mercy of workers, there is possibility that bakeries run without adhering to hygienic practices.  Also, since toddy tappers have stopped tapping the toddy, instead of using toddy which is quintessential ingredient for Goan bread, some bakers use other substitutes, informed another baker.

Many bakers from Karwar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Udupi are working in Goa’s bakery and perhaps this lot in a way is assisting in continuing the tradition bakery business.

"We have made a demand for subsidies on fire-wood, flour and other ingredients. Bakers have to run from pillar to post to obtain all sorts of licences and certificates. The government should address these issues on priority," opines Mr Gomes.

When asked about complaints that the size of breads made by them is shrinking day by day, Mr Gomes stated that prices of bread were increased last in the year 2004 and since then no increase in bread prices has been made despite the fact that prices of ingredients have gone up. "We are selling paos for Rs 2 wholesale and Rs 2.50 in retail. The ready pao has to weigh 45 grams,’’  the vice president of the association, Mr Gomes answered.

However, some locals have complained that these paos don’t last even for a day despite being soft and easy to eat.  When this reported went to some bakeries in Salcete especially in the heart of Margao, it was found that many bakeries lack the requisite hygiene. What was also found that these bakeries wear a tidy look on the Bakery Day which comes on October 8.