TN Bakery Sector Looks For A Level-Playing Field

Bakery Industries were listed under necessities during the lockdown. They were allowed to run shops and were crucial to the general public when bread became a rarely available product. The customers had to be early birds to stock up their bread for weeks.

In this situation, neither the customers nor the bakery manufactures had it easy. The manufacturer had to fight for raw material procurement to get laborers to work. Their challenges kept adding on day by day until the market opened completely. Even then, the issues they had to face did not stop.

“Even if we could run shops from 6am to 1pm, during Covid, we did not know which particular one to do. We were running from place to place to get the raw materials, get the staff to the workplace, provide them food and send them back safely. We had a responsibility to ensure there was enough stock,” said Subramani, Secretary of Tamil Nadu Baker Association.

Subramani is also the president of the Chennai Bakers Association and runs his own bread manufacturing company in Chennai, Spencers bread. He added that Even if they had the license to run shops; it was difficult for them to move around in the city. The manufactures had to buy the raw materials using their own means of transport, at times they had to go to the warehouse themselves. Added to this, they were stopped by the police constantly.

 He also pointed out that many shops in Chennai have closed their doors ever since the lockdown. “Ironically, now no one wants to buy the machinery from the companies who are shutting shops,” said Subramani.. This has become the situation in which the bakery association that was growing pre-covid has caught itself into. Even post-lockdown, it suffers from more issues, the most prominent one, a rise in fuel price. With the fuel prices touching new heights every day, the industry that depends on machinery to produce bulk orders is stuck between a situation of whether to raise their prices or reduce their profit margins. “During the lockdown, we had to sacrifice our profit margins and post-lockdown. We have to make a choice on whether to lose it again,” added Subramani.

This is where the Home bakers are gaining an advantage. Even if their products are charged higher, they do not rely on fuel prices, said Subramani. They do not come under the GST purview either.  “There is no level playing field in the matter of GST. The hotel has a GST of 5 percent where we have 18 percent. We have taken this matter up with the Finance Minister and she has promised to look into it,” said Subramani.Even after the lockdown has been removed, the business has not been doing well for a lot of bakeries. These bakeries majorly rely on schools, colleges, and seasonal sales which are still down. There is also a shortage of Skilled laborers in the industry. The owners train their staff with their experience and knowledge.

“In the future, there is a huge growth for the industry. Food is a necessity and people want to taste new things. I have seen how the industry has developed in my 30 years experience. If only we get fair competition in GST, subsidized maida, which is now only available to centralized shops and skilled labor issues are sorted out, the industry would not stay stagnated,” said Subramani. The association has also been holding various expos, renewing their monthly journals. They are also looking to collaborate with the Home Bakers.