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France’s bakers may be forced to close their shops or raise baguette prices

Littlebourne, Kent, England, UK. 19 June 2021. Fresh baguettes cooling on a wire rack.
© Ian Laker Photography/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — The cherished French baguette is in trouble.

Soaring electricity prices in France are threatening the livelihoods of bakers.

Baker Julien Pedussel, 36, started demonstrations near his shop to warn of the threat to his profession.

“I cannot pay an electricity bill of 12,000 euros with a turnover of 20,000 euros,” he said in an interview with a local news outlet.

He may have the raise the prices of his baguette from 1 euro to 3 or 4 euros — a scenario Pedussel said he won’t do.

“Besides, who would buy a baguette at such a price when the supermarkets in the area have a baguette for less than 1 euro?” he said.

French customers seem to agree with Pedussel.

“I won’t [pay 3 euros] because it’s double the price,” customer Faustine Lepoutre told ABC News. “Maybe sometimes I would because there is no equivalent to a baguette … but it would become occasional, for parties or if I have people over.”

Aurelia Cece said she’d bake a baguette herself if prices hit 3 euros.

“For some families, it’s already hard to pay over 80 cents for a baguette,” she told ABC News.

In response to the crisis, France’s minister of the economy, Bruno Le Maire, invited industry representatives to talk about rising prices. Several emergency measures were put forward, such as bakers terminating their electricity supply contract in the event of a “prohibitive” price increase.

Starting next month, an “electricity damper” measure will allow some bakers to limit how much their electricity bill increases.

“Aid for bakers has been reinforced,” the Ministry for the Economy told ABC News, noting that “eligible bakeries can benefit from it.”

On Thursday, during a ceremony at the Elysée Palace for the traditional ceremony of the “Galette des Rois,” President Emmanuel Macron addressed the bakers, telling them “I am by your side.” He called on energy suppliers to renegotiate the “excessive” contracts of small businesses.

Despite the government response, many bakery managers find themselves incapable of paying their electricity bills.

Damien Roussel owns the bakery La panetière des Buccéens in Boissy-le-Châtel, a town of 3,200 people. Last month, he was unsure if he’d be able to reopen in 2023.

“For now we are holding on through January,” he told ABC News, adding that he’s waiting to see if energy suppliers will regulate their prices.

Even with the government assistance, Roussel said he will have to pay 12,000 euros more this year for electricity. He can operate his shop until at least January using money have saved up for new equipment. What happens in February is unclear, he said.

Julien Bernard-Regnard opened his bakery five years ago in a small village in Moselle. He had to close on Dec. 4 because his expenses were overwhelming. Another bakery in the village closed the same day.

“I am ashamed to be French. I no longer want to create anything in France. It is always the same people who toil,” Bernard-Regnard told ABC News.

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