The Goan Poder (Baker) has a long-standing history behind him. Poder is not just a bread (Pão) seller for the Goans. Goans treat him like an undivided part of a family. For Goans, Poder is a morning wake-up alarm with the honk of their horn installed on their bicycle. The taste of Goan Pao is unmatched and cannot be compared with any other ready made bread in the market. But with the time everything changed. Traditional Poders had been replaced with the commercial and unhygienic Poders. The Goan Pao started losing its unique taste and texture with the time and the reason behind this is the type of materials that are being used in the process of baking by the Neo-Bakers hailing from the neighboring states. This resulted in various restrictions including the registration of their bicycles with Government authorities.
According to the information available from the reliable sources, the modern bakers are using the industrial yeast instead of old time use of toddy fermentation to bake the bread. The Goan pao, that was introduced by the Portuguese, is dying a slow death with several bakeries being leased out by Goans to persons, who lack expertise in the baker’s profession and try shortcuts to make fast money. Of the existing 600-odd legal bakeries in the state, there are hardly 25 bakeries, which proudly sell pao made in the old Portuguese style. Many bakeries in Goa have now turned modern but the quality and taste of the pao have declined.
According to the sources, the bread made with the traditional method using toddy fermentation lasts more than the bread made from industrial yeast. The bread that is made with the new process cannot be preserved even for the day. According to one of the traditional beaker from Altinho Panaji, Goans are no more interested in the bakery business and hence they are handing it over to the outsiders which result in quality degradation of Pao. “Goans today are not interested in the bakery business. People are educated and want white-collared jobs. Many have left Goa for better prospects and settled in Portugal, England, and other European countries,” said Mr. Alvito Gomes from Altinho.
According to Mr. Gomes, in the past Goans were more concerned about using traditional contents and process while making a Pao and according to him, that process needs little more patience and cleanliness which is lacking in the today’s neo-bakers. Earlier, the Traditional Poders (https://www.goaprism.com/goas-traditional-poder-bread-makers/) used to follow the norms set by Portuguese since the violators were punished severely. “Now there is no fear. Whatever you do is being tolerated. Either the baker can mix more yeast (baking powder) to get fast results, which is bad for health, or he has to wait for 8 long hours for proper fermentation. But nobody is using toddy, salt, and jaggery these days due to the cost factor,” he said. Bakers now want quick results to cater to the ever-increasing number of customers. So they use more yeast, salt, ghee, and dough as the mixture ferments very fast, he said.
According to the sources, only 20 percent Traditional Poders are now left in the bakery business and remaining 80 per cent Bakery business is presently run by the migrants from neighboring states. “People do not have choice but to eat theses bread, people are forced to eat such half-baked pao,” said one power from Margao market. The reason for renting out the bakeries to outsiders is supposed to be the nonavailability of Labour, raw material, and firewood said the sources. “Goans are happy getting easy money in a form of rental and the non-Goan bakers want to recover the money they invested into this business in a short span of time. Hence, they don’t wait for two and half hours that are required for fermentation of the pao. This is one of the reasons for the traditional pao doing the vanishing act,” said Peter Fernandes, president of the Goa Bakers and Confectionery Association. He said the Goa government should provide financial assistance to the bakers so as to revive the traditional tasty Goan pao.
Meanwhile, according to the sources, the government have asked the Poders to use the valid registration plates on their bicycles while distributing the bread. All the Poders will have to use the name of the bakery and registration number on their bicycles. According to the sources, this proposal was submitted by Goa Civic and Consumer Action Network (GOACAN) in a joint meeting with North Goa Collector and Licensing Authorities like Food and Drug Administration (FDA), director of municipal administration as well as civil supplies, legal metrology, and health department.
The sources revealed that the directorate of Panchayats was not present at the meeting which deliberated on bakery hygiene and food safety measures. The joint committee meeting headed by the North Goa Collector discussed the proposal in detail and recommended that an action taken report be submitted after it was found that many illegal bakeries are operating in the state with no registration with the FDA and local bodies. The Collector said that all the concerned departments should coordinate for an effective and efficient quality system to be followed by the bakeries in the state. The next meeting is scheduled to be held on December 21.
The civil supplies department has decided to soon commence a joint drive with licensing authorities after the minutes of the meeting get finalized. The drive will mainly focus on registration, quality check and hygienic condition of the bakeries and bakers. “It has been the practice that a ‘poder’ goes round the villages from door to door on a bicycle with a basketful of bread and sells them. However, we don’t know from which bakery the bread comes and whether it is registered with the FDA and whether the bakery follows food safety and quality measures to build and maintain the trust of consumers,” said consumer activist Roland Martins during the meeting.