French pain to come? Bakers could knead to increase baguette prices
A rise in the price of wheat worries French households who fear a possible increase in the price of the precious baguette, considered by many as a barometer of the economic health of the country.
Many bakeries in France are displaying signs warning customers that the price of the long, crisp staple could increase by 5 to 10 cents, compared to its average of around 89 cents.
“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.
Price hike fears are linked to a 30% global increase since September in the price of wheat – one of the key ingredients of the baguette – after poor harvests in Russia and Canada, Anract said. Rising energy costs make furnaces more expensive to operate and higher labor costs are also factors.
“The situation is unprecedented because we’ve never had all of these items at once, this size. And it comes at the wrong time when the pandemic has caused cash flow for some bakers,” Anract said.
10 billion baguettes per year
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 bread – notes that the French nibble 320 baguettes per second. That’s on average half a baguette per person per day and 10 billion each year.
Anract said every baguette price increase “is disastrous when it takes place nationwide.”
“The baguette is our emblem, our symbol, the thermometer of our economy. It may be like the pint of British milk. It can never exceed one euro,” he said.
Marc Cohen, 35, a father of two, told his local baker in the Marais district of central Paris that rising baguette prices “would be a headache. Costs are rising everywhere. Even 5 cents is a lot because we get one every day. It adds up over 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. “
Anract, however, pointed out that many bakeries could shield consumers from the increase “because they are banking on lower prices.”
“The bakers negotiate individual contracts with the millers, who compete with each other and who may decide to smooth the rise in wheat prices in order to maintain their relationship with their customers,” he explained.
“In addition, not all bakers have the same cooking method, nor the same oven. Electricity is a bigger expense for small businesses, which have to run their ovens all day, sometimes only to serve a few dozen baguettes in the middle of the afternoon for their customers … example, who make their rounds in the villages, are mainly affected by the increase in fuel prices, ”he noted.
Let them eat the baguette!
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 brittle 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.
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 said. It was not about the price of bread. We are not there yet!