Hansa Bäckerei closes up shop

Lack of skilled workers, price pressure take their toll
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Swakopmund • Erwin Leuschner

“We really tried everything, but in the end we had to make the decision. It is such a pity,” says Gerhard Pohl.
His brother Paul adds: “It’s an emotional affair for us, because we grew up here.”

The Pohl brothers have run the family business together for several decades.

There are many reasons for the decision to close down, “many of which were there long before Corona,” they say, adding that the bakery has been struggling with a shortage of skilled workers for many years and they have struggled to find a successor.

“The bakery trade is a tough job. It includes working nights, getting up early. Our work starts at midnight, and weekends are just as intense,” Pohl says. Sadly, he says, there are not many people who want to learn this craft because it is no longer attractive.
Other issues include the price of raw material, energy and production that have risen exponentially in recent years, while there has been a steady decline in the demand for their products.

Hotels still often bought in large amounts from the Hansa Bäckerei in Swakopmund’s industrial area before the corona crisis; thereafter production was almost halved. “[However], corona was not the reason for our decision, but it contribute to it,” Pohl says. Add price pressure from supermarkets to the mix, and the situation was exacerbated, because most have their own bakeries. “Traditional bakeries have been suffering from this for years. Even in Europe this is a trend that is growing.”

In the meantime, some hotels have also begun baking their own Brötchen or croissants. In addition, there is also the import of cheap goods from abroad.
Swakopmund’s Hansa Bäckerei is known beyond Namibia’s borders, not only thanks of their variety of pastries, but also for the quality of their products. The Przybylski bakery and confectionery is particularly popular, where many Swakopmunders pop in for fresh sandwiches, pies or some delicious bread with their daily newspaper.

The bakery's annual Christmas cookies, which were available in various supermarkets across the country, were also popular.

Looking back

Hansa Bäckerei was originally South West Bakeries (SWB), which was taken over by three partners in 1967. At that time, the now defunct Apollo bakery in Walvis Bay was one of them. In 1969, SWB took over the Przybylski bakery and in the 1970s also the Puttensen bakery (Café Treff). In 1978 Hansa Bäckerei was founded and the production of all other bakeries was moved to a central spot.

At that time, products from Hansa Bäckerei were also delivered to the new Rössing uranium mine as well as to Uis and even as far afield as Brandberg West.

In the 1980s, in its heyday, SWB employed around 140 people.

In 1997 the Apollo bakery in Walvis Bay closed down, followed by the Café Treff in 2016.

In total, just over 20 people are employed at the company - the majority being long-term employees.

“It is really sad, because with the closure a lot of specialist knowledge, traditional recipes, the bread and cake varieties, manual skills, jobs, a piece of the local food culture and a Swakopmund tradition, will all be lost,” Pohl concludes.