French bakers have taken aim at a major supermarket chain which offers anti-inflationary low prices for baguettes, saying the move will undermine competition in one of the country’s most prized industries.
The Leclerc Group said in newspaper advertisements on Tuesday that “due to inflation, the average price of baguettes could increase significantly. It’s unthinkable’, pledging to cut its profit margins to cap the cost of signature French bread at 29 eurocents (24p).
Bakers, farmers and millers gathered the next day to attack Leclerc for his campaign.
In a joint statement, trade organizations said the average price of a baguette, a daily staple in French households, had risen to 90 cents, due to rising costs for flour, electricity and of the work force.
“At the very moment when the government and all our professions are working to pay farmers fairly, Leclerc is launching this campaign which destroys values,” they said, accusing the supermarket of “demagoguery”.
Competitors “are wondering… who can live decently on these prices? the statement continues, also noting that traditional baguette making is up for Unesco cultural heritage recognition.
“We are trying to maintain employment and quality, there is a price for that,” the president of the ANMF millers’ association, Jean-François Loiseau, told AFP.
“You have to pay the people well, those who sow, reap, harvest the grain and make the flour, those who make the bread. What Leclerc is doing is shameful,” he said.
Christiane Lambert, the head of the farmers’ union FNSEA, said “Monsieur Leclerc will have to explain to us how and how much he pays his bakers” given the lowest prices.
Leclerc boss Michel-Édouard Leclerc told business magazine Capital that baguette prices in his stores had been around 30 cents “for at least a year.”
“In an environment where [prices for] everything is going up and will continue to go up, we wanted to send the signal that Leclerc will keep prices accessible to consumers,” he said.
“The players in this sector must accept that Leclerc stores control their relationship with consumers,” he added.