France’s Baguette Becomes Another Ukraine War Casualty

The fallout of the war in Ukraine is hitting even France’s iconic baguette, which was recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. On Monday, French bakers took to the streets of Paris to protest soaring energy and other prices they say are imperiling their trade.

Denis Durand begins his workdays at 3:30 a.m. to bake the crusty baguettes and croissants that are the staple of French breakfasts. His organic boulangerie, or bakery, in eastern Paris has been a family business for six decades. But today, it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet.

He says bakers like himself — known as “boulangers” in France — are seeing their profits disappearing. They get a lot of promises from the government, he says — but nothing concrete.

Like many others, Durand is feeling the effects of soaring prices since the war in Ukraine, and the European Union’s embargo on Russian energy. 

He says his monthly energy costs have doubled — other bakers have seen their energy bills rise fivefold or more. Prices of flour, sugar, eggs and the packaging for his breads and pastries are also sharply up. 

Authorities have announced support for the country’s 33,000 artisanal bakeries and other small and medium-sized businesses. 

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire also called on energy providers to renegotiate contracts for boulangers in cases where energy prices have exploded.

But many of these artisanal bakers say it’s not enough. And on Monday, Durand joined fellow boulangers in Paris to demonstrate against the soaring costs. 

The protest was organized by the Collective for the Survival of Boulangers and Artisans. Nice-based boulanger Frederic Roy, who co-founded the group, says the government warns if the government doesn’t do more to reduce their costs, many risk going out of business.

But not all baker’s groups are on board. Some unions did not join Monday’s protest.

Franck Thomasse, who heads a Paris-area bakers’ syndicate, says negotiating with the government for more support is more effective than protesting.

But baker Durand disagrees. He’s trying to cut corners — but says it’s not enough. Boulangers like himself are the lifeblood of France, he says — but today, they feel like they’re the last ones served.  

 

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