As lockdown bites bakers, people struggle to find bread

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on April 01, 2020

The supply of bread has become scarce as many bakers have shut operations owing to the shortage of labour and disruption in logistics facilities due to the lockdown.

As a result, roller flour millers have seen a drastic decline in sales of refined flour or maida, a widely used ingredient in the manufacture of bakery products such as bread and biscuits.

“There ha been a substantial drop in sales of maida over the past few days. Sales are down by about 90 per cent as the demand from bakeries has come down drastically,” said Sanjeev Puri, President of the All India Roller Flour Millers Association.

Large units cut back

While the majority of the small bakers has shut operations, large industrial bakers such as Modern Foods, Britannia and Kitty Industries, among others, are operating at a lower capacity.

“Shortage of labour and raw material, mainly used in packing, and transportation issues, have forced us to scale down our production capacity by 60 per cent,” said Ramesh Mago, promoter of Kitty Industries Pvt Ltd, in Ludhiana, which sells bakery products under the Kitty brand across North India.

“Also, the lockdown has impacted demand from both institutions and the retail segment. As a result, we have stopped manufacturing all other products such as bun, pav and pizza base, except bread,” Mago said.

Small units worst hit

The Indian bakery sector is largely dominated by smaller units in the unorganised sector. According to market research firm IMARC, the size of the bakery market, which was estimated to be $6 billion in 2017, is expected to grow to $11 billion by 2023.

Mago, who is also president of the All India Bread Manufacturers Association, said the smaller bakers in the unorganised segment are the worst affected. Though institutional demand has been hit, there have been instances of increased demand from some retail consumers. “There have been instances of people buying more loaves of bread than normal as supplies have dwindled,” Mago said.

With transportation of goods becoming a challenge, the shortage in supply of bread and related products is being felt in several locations across the country. Though the bakery sector falls under essential food category, many bakers have not resumed operations despite easing of curbs.

“We have shut down our operations for about a week due to the shortage of labour and raw material,” said BS Bhat, Chairman and Managing Director of Beekays, a large baker in Bengaluru, which manufactures about 150 products. The company, which is highly dependent on migrant labour, has not seen them returning after they went to their villages to celebrate Ugadi, Bhat said. Many of the members of the Karnataka Wrapped Bread Manufacturers Association have either stopped operations or are running at a lower capacity, Bhat said.

Published on April 01, 2020

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