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LET THEM EAT CAKE

The French could soon feel le pain of more expensive baguettes

A number of baguettes in a basket.
REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Baguette prices are on the rise.
By Courtney Vinopal
Published Last updated

The most important everyday staple in France could soon become more expensive. The cost of the country’s beloved baguette may rise by €0.05 to €0.10 ($0.06 to $0.12) in the coming weeks, said Dominique Anract, president of the French Confederation of Bakeries and Pastry Shops.

“All the warning signs are flashing red,” Anract told FranceInfo, citing rising costs of wheat, flour, energy, worker salaries, and packaging. Even a €0.10 hike would be a lot, Anract said, considering the fact that the average price of the baguette only rose by €0.23 in the past 20 years.

Following a boost over the summer, INSEE, France’s official statistics agency, reported today (Oct. 27) that consumer confidence dropped by two points in October as families worried about rising electricity bills. In September inflation reached its highest rate in a decade.

France’s bakeries have started to put up signs warning of a possible price hike, the Associated Press reported. “The baguette is an institution in France,” 43-year-old Franck Nguyen told the AP. “If the price goes up by too much, there will be big opposition.”

What’s causing baguette production costs to rise?

Anract said the rising price of wheat, a key ingredient in the flour used in French baguettes, is likely to make production costlier, with consumers’ pocket books taking a direct hit. Crop losses in Russia and Canada, which suffered from freezing temperatures, followed by drought and extreme heat, have pushed prices to multiyear highs since August.

France isn’t the only country suffering from rising wheat prices. Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi announced in August his government would increase the price of subsidized bread, which had been fixed for 20-30 years. Italy and Turkey have also worried about meeting production quotas for pasta. And in the US, the average price of bread rose by more than 10 cents in September from the previous month.

Global energy price spikes are also driving up costs for French bakers. “We heat all our ovens using gas or electricity,” Nicholas Doire, president of the federation of bakers in Sarthe, told regional outlet FranceBleu. “You must understand that the profit we turn on our baguettes pays us and our employees,” he explained, saying that it would be impossible to do so without charging customers more.

Like many other industries, French bakers are dealing with a labor shortage, too. Anract estimated there are about 21,000 open jobs at bakeries and pastry shops throughout the country right now.

However much more the French end up paying for their baguettes in the coming weeks, it’s unlikely they’ll give up their ritual trips to the boulangerie entirely.  An estimated 10 billion loaves are consumed each day, Paris holds a grand prix to crown the best baker each year, and the baguette is so beloved that it might achieve Unesco heritage status.

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