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german bakers protest against inflation

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Anke Siebert has been the daughter of bakers for six generations. She is ” worry “. “The situation is difficult and we don’t know what awaits us,” confides this Berliner who manages, with her father, a shop opened in 1906 and known to be the oldest in the German capital.

“We bake our bread with a gas oven and don’t know how high the next bill will be. There was the Covid, the rise in the prices of raw materials such as flour. In October, there will be the increase in the minimum wage to €12 and the new gas tax…”, she says.

“We have increased our prices but cannot do so indefinitely and cannot make big energy savings. Without oven, no bread. I just hope I don’t have to file for bankruptcy,” confides this craftswoman, at the head of 20 employees.

“Defend our existence”

As for Anke Siebert, the concern is perceptible among the 10,000 bakers in the country, who distribute their products in 45,000 points of sale. On Thursday September 8, the Northern federation called on its 800 members in five regions (Hamburg, Bremen, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Western Pomerania-North) to turn off their lights, in protest against the rise energy costs.

“It is very unusual for our profession to mobilize, but this time it is about defending our existence”, recognizes Jan Loleit, president of this federation, who evokes the possibility of a sevenfold increase in the level of gas and electricity bills. “How many more rolls will we have to produce to compensate for this? », he says, recalling that German bread was classified as “intangible cultural property” of humanity by Unesco in 2014.

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The tradition of “Abendbrot”

Generally rye or wheat, local bread, with 3,000 listed variants, is one of the staples of the diet of Germans, who consumed 42.6 kg per household in 2021.

No or little ham-baguette across the Rhine at noon. The tradition is that of theAbendbrot (literally “evening bread”): we eat cold, in the evening, on a small board, with breads of all kinds as a base, assorted with butter, cheese, charcuterie and raw vegetables.

Beyond the rise in energy costs, the profession – which employs 240,000 people and has undergone major restructuring in recent years, with the development of large chains – admits that it does not feel taken into account by the federal government. .

SMEs excluded from aid plans

Since March, he has presented three aid packages to fight inflation, the latest of which amounts to 65 billion euros. It provides, among other things, for an increase in family allowances, aid for retirees and students and a cap on the price of electricity.

“But this aid package does not include anything for small businesses, notes Jan Loleit. Will this ceiling price for electricity only concern individuals or craftsmen like us, who consume a lot of energy? We do not know. »

This branch also regrets not having been able to benefit from an energy cost control program (EKDP) launched in July for companies that are large energy consumers and present internationally. “If nothing is done, many bakeries will go out of business,” predicts Jan Loleit.

The government is correcting the situation

Accused from all sides of not supporting economic circles sufficiently in this period of inflation, the Ecologist Minister of the Economy, Robert Habeck, corrected the situation on Thursday 8 September. He announced an aid plan for small and medium-sized enterprises, with, among other things, an extension of the EKDP programme. “Like what, the pressure of the base counts”, welcomes Jan Loleit, while awaiting the details of these measures.

Read:  inflation continues to fall and reached 7.5% in July

More broadly, the movement of bakers reflects the fears of economic circles in the face of inflation which reached 7.9% in July and which could approach 10% in 2023. According to the German industrial association BDI, more than one third of companies consider their existence threatened by the rise in prices, against 23% in February.

For some, it is already a reality. The economic institute IHW noted in August a 26% increase in insolvency proceedings compared to last year. A trend that should continue this fall.

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Franco-German unity displayed against inflation

The day after an interest rate hike by the European Central Bank, the French finance ministers, Bruno Le Maire, and German, Christian Lindner, showed their unity in the fight against inflation on the sidelines of a meeting informal meeting in Prague (Czech Republic), with their counterparts from the European Union.

Referring to a project to reform the rules of the stability pact which limit deficits and public debt in Europe, Christian Lindner recognized the need to find a balance between growth and budgetary consolidation.

The Commission is due to present proposals in October to modernize the current framework as the 2020 pandemic-related recession sent public debt levels skyrocketing.

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