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French bakers fume at cut-price supermarket baguettes

PARIS (AFP) – French bakers have taken aim at a major supermarket chain that is offering inflation-busting low prices for baguettes, saying the move would undermine competition in one of the country’s prized industries.

The Leclerc group said in newspaper ads on Tuesday that “because of inflation, the average price of baguettes could increase significantly. That’s unthinkable”, vowing to cut into its profit margins to cap the cost of the signature French loaf at EUR0.29 (USD0.33).

But bakers, farmers and millers came together the following day to attack Leclerc for its campaign.

In a joint statement, industry organisations said the average price for a baguette, an everyday staple in French households, had reached 90 cents, driven by rising costs for flour, electricity and labour.

“Just when the government and all our professions are working to pay farmers fairly, Leclerc launches this campaign that destroys values,” they said, accusing the supermarket of “demagogy”.

Competitors “are asking themselves… who can live with dignity from these prices?” the statement continued, also noting that traditional baguette-making is in the running for UNESCO cultural heritage recognition.

“We’re trying to keep up jobs and quality, there’s a price for that,” the head of the ANMF millers’ association, Jean-Francois Loiseau, told AFP.

“We have to pay people properly, those who plant, harvest, who gather the grain and make flour, those who make the bread. What Leclerc is doing is shameful,” he said.

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