Energy prices: how the government is trying to address bakers’ concerns

Energy prices how the government is trying to address bakers

A bill of 12,000 euros in December, compared to around 1800 before the energy crisis. Julien Pedussel, artisan-baker in Rieux (Oise), launched a “call for help” on Monday January 2 on BFMTV. The situation “has become unbearable because the electricity bills are so high that I cannot pay them”, he lamented. “If I pay them, I cannot pay my employees, my suppliers and the rest of my expenses”, related this baker, who went to demonstrate on Monday on a roundabout not far from his shop.

Julien Pedussel is not the only baker to be hit hard by rising energy prices. The government, which is monitoring with concern the repeated cries of alarm from bakers, announced on Tuesday through the voice of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne that bakers will be able to “request the postponement of the payment of their taxes and social security contributions” to relieve their cash flow. .

The head of government also desired on franceinfo that the 33,000 bakers in France can also “spread out” the energy bills for the first months of the year “to get through this difficult time in terms of cash flow”. Beyond that, she assured that the prefectures would be mobilized to study the difficulties which would remain “on a case-by-case basis”. “Overall, we take care of with these various aids around 40% of the electricity bill”, assured Elisabeth Borne.

The Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire and the Minister Delegate for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Olivia Grégoire brought together representatives of the bakery sector on Tuesday morning “to discuss the consequences of the energy crisis”.

Despite the announcement on Tuesday of these support measures for SMEs, Bruno Le Maire once again closed the door to “endless aid”. “These are targeted aids for the companies most in difficulty”, he hammered, while the government is sometimes criticized for extending indefinitely the “whatever it takes” decided by Emmanuel Macron during the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19. The President of the Republic will also receive bakers on Thursday January 5, on the occasion of the traditional ceremony of the galette des rois at the Elysée. A month after the inclusion of the baguette, on November 30, 2022, in the intangible heritage of humanity by Unesco, the executive therefore intends to show its support for a threatened profession.

Insufficiently known aid already in place

Elisabeth Borne also regretted on Tuesday that most of the aid in place is “not sufficiently known” by companies. Indeed, as Politico points out, Bercy has received less than 400 aid application files. Bakers are affected by two measures: the “shock absorber”, which provides for the State to cover an average of 20% of their energy bill, and the “electricity counter”, which allows them to request an additional discount in certain cases.

The government will send a “personalized” letter to bakers in France in the coming days to encourage them to take advantage of this already existing aid. “Today, we have barely fifty SMEs a day who come to seek aid to which they are entitled on this counter”, yet simplified on many occasions since its creation, regretted Bruno Le Maire.

Hence the government’s idea of ​​setting up a “reception point” in each prefecture, “where companies and in particular bakers in difficulty can go”, indicated Elisabeth Borne. “Our goal is to support everyone according to their situation, and the situations are very different,” said the Prime Minister.

At the end of the meeting, this Tuesday morning, the bakers, through Dominique Anract, president of the National Confederation of French Bakery-Pastry, welcomed “the very important aid that has been put in place”. “Now, for an (energy) bill that will be multiplied by ten or twelve, nothing will be enough,” he qualified. “The bulk of the electricity problems are happening now,” he worried again.

Energy suppliers in the viewfinder

The government has also very clearly raised its tone towards energy suppliers, summoned this Tuesday afternoon to the Ministry of the Economy. “Today, suppliers do not help bakers and SMEs enough. I ask them to do more, better, and immediately,” insisted Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday morning.

The Minister of the Economy has also announced that bakers will be able to terminate their electricity supply contract free of charge in the event of a “prohibitive” price increase and insofar as it “threatens the survival of the company”. This “exceptional” measure will be applied “on a case-by-case basis” by energy companies, however, warned the government’s number two.

“I am sorry to see that the commitments that were made” in a charter signed in October 2022 by the energy companies “are not respected”, lamented the minister, threatening to name the offending companies if they did not commit to correct their behavior at the meeting scheduled for this afternoon. If the energy companies do not fall into line, “we can always take more from energy suppliers than what we are doing today”, threatened the Minister of the Economy after months of fiery debates around the taxation “superprofits”.

In the budget for 2023, the government has put in place a mechanism which should allow it to collect part of the “annuity” of energy companies and bring it back, according to its estimates, 11 billion euros. The government notably criticizes the energy companies for putting the knife to the throats of small entrepreneurs, forced to accept offers within very tight deadlines. Some electricity supply contracts offered to SMEs would also lack readability, according to the executive.