French energy suppliers will let struggling bakers renegotiate contracts - Le Maire

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS (Reuters) -France's energy suppliers have agreed to allow the country's trademark bakeries to renegotiate their contracts if they struggle to pay their bills, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday.

Many bakers producing France's famous baguettes and croissants are teetering on the brink of financial collapse after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year made prices for crop and energy, two of the sector's main cost factors, surge.

"This is the commitment all of the suppliers without exception made today, that they will accept to dissolve contracts when prices have risen prohibitively high and unsustainable for some bakeries," Le Maire said after a crisis meeting between the energy companies and the government.

Dominique Anract, the president of the French Bakers' Confederation, earlier told Reuters that getting rid of "rotten contracts" was one of the sector's main demands.

Le Maire noted that the industry was facing a crisis after the baguette made it onto the United Nation’s cultural heritage list in November.

Bakery power contracts can now be reviewed on a "case by case" basis depending on each bakers' situation, he said after the meeting with executives from suppliers including EDF and TotalEnergies.

Le Maire earlier said power suppliers had so far not done enough to help the country's small and medium-sized businesses cope with rising power costs.

He also told journalists that the sector agreed to provide "payment facilities" for businesses with cashflow problems.

Earlier in the day, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne confirmed plans to help French bakers cope with rising energy bills, allowing them to spread the payment of their taxes over time and possibly "the payment of their energy bills for the first months of the year".

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Louise Heavens, Mark Potter and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)