Europe’s bakers are sweating, and the rising costs of production are becoming too hot to handle. Whether it’s the local family business or large industrial bakeries, skyrocketing energy bills are an existential threat.
Euronews visited bakers in Italy, Romania and the Netherlands to find out how they are handling the crisis.
In the city of Delft, in the Netherlands, Jack Van Roon is closing his bakery where he has been baking bread and cakes for the local community for 19 years. He knows this because a 19-year-old customer reminds him that he made her a birth cake. But the war in Ukraine and rising inflation are killing his small bakery and it closes its doors for the last time.
“The problem is that gasoline prices are through the roof. There comes a time when you can’t take it anymore. I’m paying 1,400 euros a month now, soon it will be 12,000 or 13,000 euros. That’s the expectation for November and it’s impossible.” . keep it up.” explains Jack.
Jack’s departure ends a story that has spanned nearly a century. The bakery opened its doors in 1928. A time when bread was still delivered by horse-drawn carriages. 30 years ago, his father took over the business and Jack joined a little later. Everyone in the neighborhood loves Jack and especially his tasty pies, which he found to be the best and most fun part of the job.
In August, Jack switched to a variable price energy bill and for him, this was the beginning of the end.
In fact, the government supports poor families, reduces energy taxes, and subsidizes the electricity and gas bills of some consumers. But small bakeries like Jacks don’t fit into most support schemes.
Dutch bakers are organizing protest actions across the country and on Saturdays they cut off the electricity and light a candle.
The Dutch government decided to offer cheap loans to bakers willing to switch from gas ovens to electric ones, but this is problematic and won’t save Jack.
“It is possible to switch to electricity, but there is a waiting time for the cables to be placed in the street of two and a half years. We are already busy trying to get new ovens, but that would have been a half dollar investment. million euros, which gives me too much insecurity, in the last 17 years that I will be working”.
Businesses that spend at least one eighth of their billing on gasoline get government support, but most bakeries fall below this threshold and get nothing.
“We’ll try to sell as much (equipment) as can be sold. But we can’t wait too long to get rid of it, because there are a lot of bakers going out of business and there’s a lot of (used baker’s) equipment on the market. So okay, let’s see “.
A new life begins for Jack. He is no longer his own boss but instead he will work as an employee for another baker. Jack is really looking forward to it, finally he will have a regular work schedule instead of self-exploitation.
In Romania, the government supports companies with their energy bills, but not without a threshold. Large-scale consumers, such as the Oltina industrial bakery in the city of Urlați with 400 employees, receive cheaper subsidized energy. But now they are paying the equivalent of 50,000 euros a month for electricity instead of the 20,000 euros they paid before.
Bogdan Iosif is co-owner and general manager of Oltina Bakery.
“At the moment, our biggest problem is the high price of electricity. We would like to be included in the state compensation scheme for electricity.”
Cristinel started as a teenager in the company and has been part of the staff for 22 years. She fell in love with her wife Cristina while she was baking bread. Unskilled workers receive the equivalent of 450 euros net per month, Cristinel receives 600 from her for her period of service in the company.
Although the government supports private households with a cap on energy prices, the couple try to pinch and scrape whenever possible. This includes trying to get by without heating your house, because the bills are too expensive.
In Italy, at the Campo de’ Fiori bakery in a prime location in Rome, Davide works from ten at night to ten in the morning. He has been a baker since he was 15 years old and says that now everything is more expensive.
In fact, both the new right-wing government of Giorgia Meloni and the previous government of Mario Draghi have opted for extensive support packages. However, people like Davide still suffer from rising inflation.
At 8 o’clock the bakery opens in the flower market. Customers comment on the government’s announcement to channel 30,000 million euros financed with debt in the coming months to families and companies in order to alleviate the burden of electricity and gas bills.
Fabrizio Rosciolo is the owner of Campo de’ Fiori and he is concerned about his 18 employees. The crazy costs of materials, ingredients and energy have already forced him to increase the price of bread by 12 percent.
“In just one year, our monthly gas bill increased from 1,200 euros to 5,500 or almost 6,000 euros and our electricity bill increased from 1,500 euros to 5,700 euros. We have two ovens, one runs on electricity and the other on gas. In At the moment, we have turned off the electric oven, otherwise the bill would be too expensive to pay”. explains Fabrizio.
Italy, Romania, France and a dozen other EU countries want a European gas price cap and debt-financed EU support. But countries like the Netherlands and Germany object, arguing that suppliers could sell their natural gas elsewhere.
A compromise could see EU members join forces to buy gas together and thus lower the price. If energy ministers cannot reach an agreement next week (November 24), heads of government will have to resolve it in December.
Since the beginning of the energy crisis (in September 2021), almost 600 billion euros have been allocated in EU countries to protect consumers from rising energy costs.