Bread shortage hits city as leading bakery halts production

Bread shortage hits city as leading bakery halts production
Bella Jaisinghani, TNN | Jul 4, 2014,

MUMBAI: A severe shortage of sliced bread has hit the city since Tuesday. Modern Bread, one of the three largest bakers, has halted production at its Goregaon unit since June 26. As a result, the pressure has piled on to the other two, Britannia and Wibs, whose distributors have begun rationing supplies to retailers.

Smaller manufacturers like Bimbo, Relish, Theobroma and St Michael are filling in the need in certain pockets but in several quarters, consumers are turning to the humble pav for meals.

A distributor in Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri, informed TOI that the shutdown at Modern was the result of labour unrest. "A worker at the factory lost his hand in an accident and the rest of the labourers have gone on a flash strike," he said. An industry representative said, "After the accident, the government's factory inspector swung into action and suggested particular safety measures be put in place before the unit could be allowed to restart. The company will comply before it resumes production on Sunday, July 6."

Hindustan Unilever, which owns the Modern brand, denied that the closure was owing to labour problems. "We are currently undertaking a safety upgrade as (a measure of) abundant caution following an untoward safety incident in which a workman's hand was injured on June 26. He was immediately rushed to hospital where the best available medical treatment was provided. He is now recuperating. Factory operations are expected to resume from July 6."

Since Tuesday, grocery stores and streetcorner pan shops that stock bread are reporting slow arrivals. Firoz Khan who runs Amir Store along Colaba Causeway said, "Other suppliers like Britannia and Wibs cannot fill the gap so we are receiving only five or 10 loaves a day as against 15-20. In fact I am purchasing bread from a nearby bakery and selling it in my shop because I cannot turn customers away."

In Mahim, Arvind Gupta who owns Navbharat Chana Bhandar, said, "Our distributor was told that the shortage was a result of several workers having gone on vacation to their native villages. He could not say when supply will normalise."

Early birds at Gupta's store get to buy from rationed supplies of Britannia and Bimbo while latecomers return empty-handed. Ganesh Poojary, spokesperson of Arani Foods which manufactures Bimbo, said, "Our unit is functioning at full production but we supply to corporates and airlines apart from the retail sector. Naturally, when one of the biggest suppliers abruptly stops production, there will be a shortfall."

Customers in Lokhandwala, who miss the morning consignment of Relish or Britannia, are opting for pav prepared by local dairies. Interestingly, this has had a positive offshoot. Sindhi housewife Sharmila Samtani said, "Ordinarily, pav and sliced bread have different uses, one does not use pav to prepare sandwiches or toast at breakfast. Still, the bright side is that during this temporary shortage we are re-discovering the pleasures of traditional Sindhi dishes like 'seyal dabal' and Maharashtrian bread 'poha' which taste infinitely better with pav."





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