French bakers gathered on Monday, January 23rd, in the streets of Paris to protest against the rise in energy prices following the war in Ukraine, which is jeopardizing their profession.
The crisis has been brewing for many weeks. Bakeries throughout France have been confronted with huge increases in their electricity bills, sometimes multiplied by ten or twenty, which makes it impossible to maintain their business. Since the return from summer vacations, layoffs and closures have multiplied, with dramatic consequences on a social level. Indeed, in many small towns, the bakery is the last remaining business when everything else has closed and public services have progressively deserted the countryside. The regional daily press has reported on these numerous tragedies that undermine the morale of French people.
The government has tried to react by putting in place measures to help bakers: deferral of charges; staggering of bills; the possibility of renegotiating contracts with energy suppliers, or even a tariff shield. But the professionals of the sector believe that these measures are inadequate and in many cases inapplicable: 80% of bakeries would not be able to benefit from them because of the constraints imposed.
Bakers from all over France gathered on Monday at the Place de la Nation in Paris—a highly symbolic place linked to the history of the French Revolution. Bakers never take to the streets. In fact, “the last time was during the French Revolution,” one of them said.
The demonstrators point out a dishonorable paradox: the crisis has spiraled out of control, threatening the survival of bakeries, precisely at the moment when UNESCO has decided to include the French baguette in the World Heritage List. The bakers are calling for an emergency tariff shield, valid for all. Others give a more political tone to their protest and question the European common market of electricity.
The call was launched by the ‘Collective for the survival of bakeries and crafts’ but was not supported by the national organization for the profession, which believes that the government is sufficiently responsive and that the demands of the demonstrators are impossible to satisfy. This position is not to the liking of some demonstrators, such as David Fèvre, a baker and creator of a Youtube channel dedicated to bread, who criticizes the position of the organization:
They are in denial, they are careerists. Yes, the government is listening, but basically, they do not understand the lives of artisans.
Several politicians, Right and Left, joined the procession of artisans, among them, the deputy of La France Insoumise François Rufin, the sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, and RN deputy Caroline Parmentier.