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German bakeries fight for survival as costs spiral

AFP . Germany
26 Sep 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 26 Sep 2022 00:48:12
German bakeries fight for survival as costs spiral

Faced with exploding energy and ingredient costs, German baker Tobias Exner has installed new energy-efficient ovens, shortened his opening hours and even considered baking at lower temperatures.

But “it just doesn’t taste the same without a good crust”, he said, adding that in any case such efforts could do little to counter the existential crisis he and other bakers are facing.

“If the conditions don’t change, then sooner or later a large share of bakeries in Germany will simply no longer exist,” Exner told AFP.

Bakeries in Germany have been among the businesses hardest hit by the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The war has sent energy prices spiralling across Europe, but especially in Germany, which was previously heavily dependent on Russian gas.

“Bakeries all have ovens. Seventy percent of artisanal bakeries have gas ovens and gas prices are going through the roof,” said Friedemann Berg, managing director of the German Bakers’ Federation. And two of the main ingredients used by bakers -- flour and oil -- are among those that have been affected by blockades at Ukrainian ports.

Exner’s business is relatively large with 220 staff and 36 branches in Berlin and the surrounding area, leaving it better placed than many to survive the crisis -- but even he is struggling.

Wheat is now 2.5 times more expensive than before the crisis, he said, while the cost of a litre of oil has risen from around 82 cents to more than three euros ($2.91).

Energy bills for the business, meanwhile, have almost quadrupled compared with 2020.