With ongoing food production delays because of checkpoints, limited workforce and declining supplies, food companies and factories are forced to restrict or even pause productions.

Bread manufacturers and bakeries are not exempted from this problem. The largest bread manufacturer in the Philippines, Gardenia Bakeries, is having a hard time meeting demands due to lack of manpower ever since the community quarantine started. Workers from Sta. Rosa cannot report for work in Biñan where the factory is located due to imposed checkpoints.

On the other hand, some bakeries like Kamuning Bakery have decided to stay open to support their workers’ needs. Some have even extended their hands and pledged to give a daily supply of bread and pastries to health workers in Davao. Even cafés such as The French Baker, Chuck’s Deli + Bakery and Wildflour Cafe + Bakery have adapted by offering delivery services. 

Some small-scale bakeries, however, are thriving during this time. Jericho’s Bakeshop, a local bakery located just outside the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, is still open but operates on adjusted business hours as per municipal order. They open at 5 am and close at 5 pm compared to their usual 6 am to 11 pm hours. Surprisingly, this window hour doesn’t seem to affect their business. “People still patronize the business,” says Franchesca Dungo, niece of the owner. “Mabilis maubos ‘yung mga bread kasi maraming tao ang bumibili,” she adds. Though there are shortages in raw materials and ingredients like lard, margarine and baking paper, their bread production has since tripled—from four bags of bread per production to 10 to 12 bags—because of high customer demand. 

Though there are shortages in raw materials and ingredients like lard, margarine and baking paper, Jericho’s Bakeshop’s bread production has since tripled—from four bags of bread per production to 10 to 12 bags—because of high customer demand. 

Another bakery that’s thriving is Hoseña’s Bakery located in the town proper of San Carlos City in Pangasinan“For the first few days, we were allowed to operate for 24 hours. Later on, we decided to close at 8 pm, then lately 6 pm since walang tindera,” says Freih Hoseña, daughter of the owner, who says that their staff, which hail from different barangays, aren’t able to go to the town proper anymore because of the imposed community quarantine. 

But, she says, their bread production has also tripled, and even quadrupled during the second week of the community quarantine. “Maramihan ang binibili pero not really bulk, like four bun bags or two large loaves per person.” A key factor for this could be in the way the local government divided all 86 barangays into clusters, assigning each cluster a certain day to purchase goods. According to Hoseña, sales have increased to a whopping 200 to 300 percent during the whole quarantine period. 

In the case of their inventory meanwhile, Hoseña says that they get their supplies from a long-time supplier in the local market so delays are virtually non-existent. “There are delays but they don’t really affect us since if may konti pa kaming stock, um-o-order na kami agad. Hindi na namin hinihintay na maubos.” But there has been a price increase when it comes to ingredients even if the Department of Trade and Industry had implemented a 60-day price freeze. According to Hoseña, prices of flour and sugar are the same but eggs are a different story with a tray costing P30 or at P1 apiece. This might be a result of the detected bird flu in Nueva Ecija, causing suppliers to increase the prices because of the massive bird loss.

IMPENDING THREAT TO BAKERS

Now on the third week of the community quarantine, bakers aren’t just cautious about food waste and oversupply. Fatigue is also looming on the horizon.

“Overworked na ang mga tao and kaming owners na rin, especially my mom who has been overworking since this started. Our health will be at risk. If mag-extend pa ‘to, dadating ‘yung day na mawawalan na ng supply ‘yung suppliers namin so we have to close down,” she says. 

“Overworked na ang mga tao and kaming owners na rin, especially my mom who has been overworking since this started. Our health will be at risk. If mag-extend pa ‘to, dadating ‘yung day na mawawalan na ng supply ‘yung suppliers namin so we have to close down,” Freih Hoseña says. 

But not all bakeries are thriving during this time. Noceda Bakery is one of those struggling to meet the demand. The family-owned bakery in Mendez, Cavite, which has also expanded to Tagaytay in the 1980s, is now managed by the children of Paterno Noceda, making it one of the second-generation businesses in the country. 

Production is still ongoing despite the capacity being reduced to 60 percent due to mobility restrictions, employee accessibility issues and imposed curfews. Their stores are among the few bakeries that are open but with limited business hours since bread supplies in supermarkets are declining. 

Export-quality Jacobina biscuits, which are manufactured by La Noceda Food Products, Inc. are a source of pride and glory but due to several distributors and wholesalers temporarily closing down their business, orders dropped and sales slowed down. Other MSMEs relying on exporting goods are also suffering from the same problem. Noceda Bakery’s inventory is only half of their supplies, caused by the usual delivery delays in ingredients and packaging materials. “Most of our suppliers have committed that they will deliver our orders but cannot commit on the date of delivery,” says company president Nelson Noceda.

Export-quality Jacobina biscuits are Noceda Bakery’s pride and glory

Some companies also involve small-scale bakeries in their own corporate social responsibility like Pilmico Foods Corporation, which has an existing program with bakeries called Kutitap Feeding Program. This company initiative addresses malnutrition among children while providing an additional source of income for partner-bakeries. In response to the country’s current health situation, bread donations from its partner-bakeries were given to hospitals and checkpoints around Tarlac and Iligan City. Programs like this can be adapted by the government and other organizations in order to support more SMEs and help them sustain their businesses.

What might be the future of bakeries after this pandemic ends? “After rice, bread is the next staple and its importance has never been more emphasized in times like today”, tells Noceda. He adds, “I think bakeries being producers of one of the basic foods will have a sustainable future.” 

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