TIRUCHY: Though bakeries are now allowed to operate like groceries and markets from 6 am to 1 pm, bakers said they are finding it difficult to run their shops in the lockdown. They called for some assistance from the government and NGOs to redistribute their products. From April 14, bakeries were given the go-ahead by the State government to operate, bringing cheer to pastry lovers and those seeking the comfort of soft bread.
However, bakers said without help, running the business sustainably would be a challenge. They appealed to NGOs and government to procure bread, rusks and other such products from them to distribute to the needy and hospitalised. According to the Bakery Owners Association in Tiruchy, only 10 per cent of the shops in the city opened shutters on Thursday. They said the number was far lower on Wednesday. The few that opened had little time for sales as they were busy clearing old stock and cleaning. The bakeries have been advised by the association to focus on bread, buns, rusks and other such items rather than pastries and snacks. Bread and others are considered essential and have a minimum guarantee in sales amidst a lockdown.
Many bakeries were not prepared to start operations as labourers were unavailable and had mostly stocked packed goods like grocery stores and limited loaves of bread. Many bakers thought it better not to open. Asked about the challenges, ND Arun Balaji, secretary, Tiruchy Bakery Owners Association said, "It is very tough to balance sales, let alone see a profit. Most bakery sales usually take place in the evenings, so we kept expectations low. Sales were below par."
He said as fermentation alone took five hours, they had less than an hour to focus on sales. He added in the first day, the running cost was far more than income the shops generated. "Masters alone are paid Rs. 600 or more a day. My shop made Rs. 400 today. I have not even checked the books for the other investments made just to keep the shop open," he said.
Former Tamil Nadu Bakery Owners Association secretary R Kaleeswaran told TNIE, "During the Chennai floods, the government utilised bakers and distributed bread and rusks. These are also desperate times and such measures could be taken again. It would help those in need and also the bakers."