Fears for French baguettes as power prices burn bakers

Recently described as "250 grams of magic and perfection" by President Emmanuel Macron, the French baguette is at risk from surging energy prices, with some bakers warning they can no longer afford to fire up their ovens.

Already struggling with sharp hikes in the price of butter, flour and sugar over the last year and a half, the prized industry is now alarmed by astronomical electricity bills looming in 2023.

"It was absolutely inconceivable to me that a power bill could make me close my shop and stop my life here," Julien Bernard-Regnard, a distraught baker in the village of Bourgaltroff in eastern France, told AFP by phone. 

He is still coming to terms with closing his doors for the final time in early December having decided that continuing his business, built up over the last five years, was impossible given the cost of electricity.

"I had to renew my contract at the beginning of September and it increased by three and half times," he said. 

His monthly power costs rose from around 400 euros ($420) a month to nearly 1,500, while shopping around for an alternative supplier brought no relief. "I'm in lots of online groups with other bakers and on social media. There are bakeries closing every day. Some have bills that are multiplied by 10 or 12.

There's someone else 40 kilometers from me who's just shut down," he added. In a country where the availability of crusty daily bread is a political issue fraught with danger for any government, Macron's cabinet is keen to show it is doing everything possible to safeguard the nation's 35,000 bread and croissant makers.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced Tuesday that bakers with a cashflow problem could ask to delay the payment of their taxes and social charges,...

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