In trouble, bakers want government support
Say that with Goan bakers abandoning their business, non-Goan bakers have flooded the market with poor quality bread
PANJIM: The demand to increase the price of local pao is long overdue. For Goa’s baking community, this goes beyond just a price hike as they face a host of issues that have not been resolved for a decade now.
The failure of successive governments to do so has deflated the businesses of these traditional Goan entrepreneurs so much that many have abandoned the business for greener pastures.
According to them, there were 1,200 traditional bakers twenty years ago, now there are around 500-600 local bakers, with non-Goans filling in the gaps but flooding the market with poor quality bread.
A day after the All Goa Bakers and Confectioners’ Association (AGBCA) announced that the price of pao would be increased to Rs 5 from October 2, Herald spoke with members of the All Goa Association of Bakers (AGAB), who agreed that the price of bread should be increased.
In fact, AGAB members believe it should have been done years ago, given the ever increasing costs of raw materials and other essentials in recent years.
They say that now there should be no opposition to this move and that the public would support them in view of the hardships they have endured.
âWe start our work at night and early in the morning our ‘poders’ are up and going from house to house to deliver bread. Some of them even go to the first or second floor of these buildings. It is an age-old service that has the respect and recognition of society as a whole, âsaid former AGBP secretary Gajanan Golatkar.
Other AGBP members questioned why the recommendations made in 2011 by the working group chaired by Dr Nandkumar Kamat continued to be ignored.
The task force not only deliberated and assessed all the problems faced by the bakers, but also defined a detailed plan to support, revive and promote the baking industry in Goa. The views of AGBP members, including former association president (the late) John Vaz, had been incorporated into it.
The task force had said that local bread should be considered a local heritage and that it met the nutritional needs of hundreds of thousands of people. It is therefore important to support local bakers.
The government headed by the then chief minister, Digambar Kamat, had accepted these suggestions aimed at stabilizing the price of bread and a plan in this direction was even notified by the Department of Social Protection in November 2011.
However, subsequent governments, led by former CM (late) Manohar Parrikar and incumbent CM Pramod Sawant, failed to move this file forward. Meetings were even held with the ministers of civilian supply among several other follow-ups with the government, but nothing has changed.
AGBP members say that if these recommendations had been implemented, the reality on the ground today would have been much different.
Among the many suggestions, the task force recommended a package that would provide local bakers with a 50% subsidy on raw materials, subsidized electric ovens to save firewood, a one-time 50% subsidy for the purchase of locally made bicycles and bamboo / cane. baskets, preferential tariffs for electricity and water tariffs and group insurance for their families.
Ten years later, the government is considering a series of similar demands.
Incidentally, the current government has reduced the subsidy aid for traditional bakers and salt producers to Rs 10 lakh, which was Rs 100 lakh in 2012.
The bakers added that despite the hundreds of thousands of breads sold per day, their profit margins are meager to say the least, with some local bakers barely breaking even due to the high costs involved.
AGPP President Agapito Menezes said traditional bakers have also had to market baked confectionery products for their businesses to survive as it is no longer enough to make and sell bread.
âThere was a time when generations were trained in the art of baking and the income they earned from selling bread was enough to support the family. It’s not the same. By supporting us, the government would have supported a traditional industry, âsaid another AGPB member.
Asked what needs to be done now, Golatkar said the government should not give a wheat subsidy just as has been suggested in the past and that such piecemeal measures would be inadequate. He insisted that assistance should be provided for the purchase of all raw materials such as flour, sugar, yeast and firewood and that other legitimate demands should be met.
AGBP members concluded that at the end of the day, to revive the industry, they need the support they are entitled to and that this should not be a scenario where the government dictates the terms.