Energy crisis hitting French cuisine

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Jan. 4 (UPI) — French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said support was coming in 2023 for bakeries, which like many segments of the economy are facing higher prices for everything from wheat to energy because of the war in Ukraine.

Natural gas prices in the European market are down from peak levels in 2022 as the bloc shored up enough non-Russian supplies to ensure there would be no shortages during the winter heating season in the Northern Hemisphere.

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Russia was a major global supplier of everything from oil to natural gas and grains, but Western sanctions are limiting what’s available. Benchmark wheat prices in London, meanwhile, are about 17% more than before the outbreak of war in late February 2022.

Le Maire said from his official Twitter account on Tuesday that bakeries can now renegotiate their payment plans to address the combined strains of higher wheat and energy prices.

The finance minister said that, from 2023, a “help desk” is available to help bakers, butchers and restaurants get as much as a 20% discount on their bills.

Baguettes in particular are an important part of French culture, with a tradition dating back at least 100 years. Six billion baguettes are sold each year in France and bread has often been subsidized by the government.

The baguette is a staple of French culture and the government now wants to keep business from going under due to strains from the war premium on essential commodities. File photo by David Silpa/UPI
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In November, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added the “artisanal know-how and culture of” French baguettes to its “intangible cultural heritage” list.

The process of making baguettes is subject to stringent regulations in France where a 1993 law stipulates that all baguettes must be made on premises and contain only four ingredients, flour, water, salt and yeast.

Still-high commodity prices are pushing the European economies toward recession. France, Europe’s second-largest economy, is faring better than its peers, though GDP during the last quarter of 2022 may have shown a contraction.