The fears of a rise in baguette prices make the French crack

PARIS – A rise in the price of wheat worries French households who fear a possible rise in the price of the precious baguette, considered by many as a barometer of the economic health of the country.

Many bakeries in France display signs warning customers that the price of the long, crunchy commodity could increase by 3-5 cents (4-6 cents), compared to its average of around 89 cents (just over $ 1).

“While that may not seem like much, it’s a huge increase. The wand is precious. It has only increased by 23 cents over the past 20 years, ”said Dominique Anract, President of the French Confederation of Bakeries and Pastry Shops.

The bread industry crunch has been linked to a 30% worldwide increase since September in the price of wheat – one of the key ingredients in baguette – after poor harvests in Russia, Anract said. Rising energy prices that make ovens more expensive to use is also a factor, according to Anract and other experts, with businesses and consumers around the world already feeling the heat of the chain’s higher prices. supply and labor constraints.

Energy prices are also affecting the Italian food chain, with the hope that they will increase the cost of drying grain. This could potentially increase the price of bread and pasta in supermarkets, but the meat and dairy aisles are even more vulnerable as beef and milk producers are forced to pay more for grain to feed their animals. and pass the cost on to customers.

The 67 million French people are voracious consumers of the baguette. The country’s “Bread Observatory” – a venerable institution that closely follows the fortune of the famous 65-centimeter (26-inch) bread – notes that the French munch on 320 baguettes per second. That’s on average half a baguette per person per day and 10 billion each year.

“Even three cents more is disastrous when played nationally,” Anract said. “The baguette is our emblem, our symbol, the thermometer of our economy. Maybe it’s like the pint of British milk. It can never exceed one euro.

Marc Cohen, 35, father of two, told his local baker in the Marais district of central Paris that rising baguette prices “would be a headache. Costs are increasing everywhere. Even 5 cents is a lot because we get one every day. It adds up over the course of the year, and next year it will probably be the same. “

Calling this “depressing news”, Franck Nguyen, a 43-year-old engineer, said “the baguette is an institution in France. If the price increases too much, there will be strong opposition. “

Although the baguette seems to be the quintessential French product, it is said to have been invented by the Viennese baker August Zang in 1839. Zang implemented the French steam oven, making it possible to produce bread with a crusty crust but inside soft.

The peak of the product did not come until the 1920s, with the advent of a French law prohibiting bakers from working before 4 a.m. could do in time for breakfast.

French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot even nominated the baguette for a place on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage next year.

Baguettes are such a serious business that bread watchers say bakers across France are willing to sacrifice other bread products to keep the price of the baguette down, spreading the extra costs.

This worries Sandrine Boyer, a 24-year-old student. She said she spends most of her bakery money on products other than baguettes and hopes “the price of breads in general won’t go up as well.”

Bread has often stirred up French passions. Marie-Antoinette’s famous misattributed quote, “Let them eat cake,” was one of the supposed triggers of the French Revolution of 1789.

Still, Anract was optimistic about the immediate future.

“During the Revolution, there was a shortage of bread, there was not enough,” he says. “It wasn’t about the price of bread. We are not yet at this stage!

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