Bread making in Goa, which is a very integral part of the Goan lifestyle is an art that was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese. Traditional Goan bread that resembles the Middle Eastern Pita bread is called as “Poi” or “Pao “ meaning bread in Portuguese. Baked in large wooden hearths, traditionally toddy was used for fermentation instead of yeast which imparted a characteristic flavour to the bread.
Baking was a family tradition passed from generation to generation by poders ( those skilled in bread making) . But today many bakeries are facing closure due to many social and economical changes like lack of skilled labour and a largely uninterested younger generation.
Very few people want to join the trade that is already showing plunging sales. Although the older bakers are trying everything to keep the bread making heritage alive, the younger generation is opting out of the industry. Working next to hot ovens for long hours is not exactly what the new millennials expect.
Alfonso Braganza, Secretary of All Goa Association of Bakers, addressed this issue stating that many traditional bakers have either leased or sold their bakeries to non Goans. And about 20-25 per cent of bakeries have been permanently shut down. The bakeries that remain in function are also in a fierce competition with well established supermarkets and confectionery chains like Monginis leaving the bakers struggling to make their ends meet. The Non-Goans to whom the bakeries are leased out, do not possess the skilled knowledge about the traditional baking methods, resulting in the quality and its flavour getting lost.
According to Peter Agnelo Fernandes, President of All Goa Bakers And Confectioners Association, “”In the olden days bakers baked only twice a day systematically mixing, fermenting and baking with proper percentage of yeast. But nowadays to earn extra income they bake three times a day resulting in lower quality products.”
In addition to the younger generation’s dislike to continue in the industry, there are several more factors that have resulted in the declining of the bakery industry. High price of raw materials, shortage of skilled labourers, high establishment cost and competition from modern supermarket chains can be named as some of them.
Many hard hit bakers have sought assistance from the government including an increase in the price and although many promises were made nothing has been implemented so far to revive the industry.
Anthony Fernandes, owner of 56 years old Central Bakery at St. Estavem said “I have two sections in our factory. One is the traditional Portuguese section and the other is the modern section. For traditional bakery I use expensive wood brought from Maharashtra” . He further added that earlier he used to bake around 6000 loaves a day but now it has dropped into 3000 loaves per day.