Bakers in the south face further flood warnings

Further flooding is threatening bakery trade in the south as the Met Office issued an Amber warning.

Forecasters are predicting “further spells of heavy rain” for the south-west following the wettest January since 1910, according to the Met Office’s website.

In Cornwall, The Quay Bakery, Fowey, has experienced flooding after the wrong sealant was used in its flood gate

Speaking to British Baker, Nicola Hanks, co-owner, said that she and partner Tom French, head baker, spent an hour and a half scooping water from the shop’s entrance on 5 February.

“Masses of water came in, but didn’t come into the actual shop,” Hanks said.  “Nothing has been damaged, but we are prepared and know what to expect. This time of year the water does come up, but it seems worse because of the winds. I hadn’t seen it that bad with waves in the street.”

Located on Fowey’s quay, she claimed that water lingers in the area as it is unable to drain effectively due to a problem with drains. If the bakery does flood, she said, it will impact both the business and the couple’s home as they live above the shop.

Despite the interruption, the bakery reported that it sold out of produce on the day, despite seeing reduced trade throughout January.

Hanks said: “People come and collect their bread and they know to bring their wellies. When it gets really bad we serve over the floodgate, and I’ve waded to people and served them in their four-by-four cars.

“Trade has been impacted by the weather, but January is notoriously quiet here. Like any business, we roll with the punches and we’re ticking on.”

Elsewhere, Cornish baker Martyn Hawkins, owner of Martin's Bakery, St Austell, who suffered from flooding three years ago, has used sandbags in preparation for heavy rain this weekend.

“We’ve been lucky this time,” Hawkins said. “We did get flooded quite badly three years ago when the river in the village broke its banks. We just take it one day at a time, as bakers do.”

He added that trade has not been badly hit, as consumers have become more aware of the weather.

Planning ahead

Mike Holling, executive director of the CBA, said that lost sales from the weather can be difficult to retrieve:“Any extreme weather can cause major disruptions to not only the high street, but also distribution and logistics. It can have a negative impact on sales, and people won’t come in. If you lose sales on one day, it’s very rare in this industry that you get it back the following day.”

With the prospect of more rain, he advised bakers to check their insurance cover, protect important documents, as well as having an essential toolkit with torches, phones and wellington boots to hand.

“Forward planning can go long way,” he added. “It’s always worth preparing and having a plan in the background.” 

Chris Young, campaign coordinator for the Real Bread Campaign, added:“January is a quieter month for everybody, and no time would be a good time for this sort of thing to happen. But for it to be just when trade is picking up now is a really terrible time for it to hit.”

For businesses in Cornwall, one of the worst affected areas, the council has released a ‘Survival Toolkit’. Available on its website, it describes the immediate actions needed after a serious incident like flooding. It also discusses the necessary steps to assess the impact of the disaster on the survival of the business as a trading operation.

Having suffered from man-made flooding last summer, Anthony Kindred, president of the Craft Bakers’ Association (CBA) , told British Baker last month: “Once the water’s gone and you’ve cleared up, you need to rebuild your business. Get the support from your local council and MP.”

Recent figures published by the Met Office revealed that last January was the wettest for the south England region in the national series dating back to 1910. It was also the wettest calendar month for the south east region in the same series “by a huge margin”.

In addition, from 12 December 2013 to 31 January 2014, parts of southern England recorded over five months’ worth of rainfall, based on the average January rainfall for the region.

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