A supermarket chain raised a national controversy by offering the baguette at 0.29 euros, the third of what comes out in a traditional bakery. Farmers’ and bakers’ unions, as well as political leaders, shouted to the heavens for the “shameful” initiative, at a time when purchasing power is one of the main concerns of the French.
In France, you don’t play with bread, and less with the baguette, national gastronomic heritage and inflation thermometer for the pocket of the citizen. For this reason, when the Leclerc group announced this week that it would offer in its supermarkets, and for four months, the baguette at 0.29 euros (a third less than what it costs in the traditional bakery on the corner), the reactions were not they made you wait.
For the economic sector that depends on wheat it was a declaration of war. Grain producers, millers and bakers, as well as the FNSEA, the main agricultural union, denounced in a joint press release “prices that deliberately destroy values”.
They were outraged by a “demagogic” ad at a time when “the prices of cereals, and therefore of flour, are high, production costs (salaries, etc.) increase considerably and the average price of a baguette in France in 2021, according to INSEE (the French national statistical institute), it will be 0.90 euros“.
The baguette, national gastronomic heritage of France. Photo: AFP
“We try to preserve jobs and quality, but this comes at a cost: we have to pay properly to the people involved, to those who plant, harvest, assemble the grains and make the flour, and to those who make the bread. What Leclerc is doing is shameful,” Jean-François Loiseau, president of the French National Millers Association, told AFP.
Since wheat prices have risen about 30% in a year, Loiseau wonders “where does the Leclerc group buy its flour” and “with what products is it going to compensate”.
“Mr. Leclerc will have to explain to us how and how much do you pay bakers with a 29-cent baguette,” reacted Christiane Lambert, head of the FNSEA.
Tasting baguettes in Paris. Photo: AFP
For his part, the leader of the business group justified his commercial measure at a time when “flour suppliers have invoked the rise in the price of wheat to request considerable increasesLeclerc defended before the media his choice of a “star product”, “inflation marker”, as he had done with fuel a few months ago.
A three months of the presidential elections, all take sides in the controversy, which affects the French idiosyncrasy.
“Is extremely dangerous -judged the conservative presidential candidate, Valérie Pécresse- because we know that the Leclerc centers will make up for it in the rest of the cart. It’s not really a measure of purchasing power, it’s a product called to take customers to the store, and then there will be products that will be more expensive and thus recover their margin elsewhere.
On the other side of the political spectrum, leftist leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon also denounced the initiative. “Obviously, it is a sale at a loss. It will result in the creation of a new detrimentwill lead bakers and confectioners to ruin, that only increases in energy and materials can affect their prices”, said Mélenchon.
The value of the baguettes are also an indicator of inflation. Photo: AFP
Price control in France?
Amid the controversy and the inflationary context, the National Assembly on Thursday rejected a bill proposed by Mélenchon, which intended to block certain prices in case of “social emergency”.
The presidential candidate of France Insumisa and deputy for Bouches-du-Rhône ardently defended his text for price freeze energy (gas, electricity, fuels) and five fruits and vegetables seasonal, in the face of accelerating inflation.
Industry Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said the bill was “a bad answer to a good question”. He underlined the risks of blocking the economy and the black market, as in Venezuela, country often cited by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
“We are not going to take the conservative ideas out of the basement or the old Marxist recipes out of the attic,” said Deputy Guillaume Kasbarian, of the ruling party La República en Marcha.
Por Alex Sinclair, RFI