A bakery in Vencimont, Walloon Ardennes, has been forced to close after its monthly energy bill rose from €1,860 to €11,836, Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure reports.
“Here, hard times have arrived,” the managers of the small bakery wrote on Facebook. “Like others before us, it is time to thank our government for its inaction and indifference.”
Bakeries, and other businesses in the food sector, are highly dependent on energy. Many require 24-hour lighting as bakers work through the night to prepare bread for the day, as well as expensive gas to run their ovens.
“Bakeries are energy-intensive: we use ovens for several hours each day. 24 hours of cold storage, 20 hours of lights on,” the bakery explained.
Across the country, food producers have been forced to cut or entirely halt production to maintain profitability. For these businesses, the current level of financial support from the Federal and regional governments is insufficient to deal with the massive increase in their input costs, a side-effect of the economic repercussions of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“If the political world does not set limits and does not take adequate decisions to cope with the cataclysm that faces us, there will soon be no more bakeries in Belgium,” Dumont bakery warned.
In a post on Facebook, the owners explained their financial woes and provided evidence of bills received from their energy suppliers. “At the beginning of 2022, we had gone to €1,860 per month – a €500 increase. Coupled with the higher costs of raw materials (such as flour and butter), this generated a €0.20 increase in the cost of your bread."
Killing the business
The bakery's owners were shocked when they realised how much more their energy bills had risen, with their monthly bills adjusted to €11,836. This represents a 500% increase in the business' monthly electricity bill, the bakers lamented.
While the previous rise in prices could be passed on to customers, the increase this time is too great to make it profitable to produce bread. “If we apply the same increase to our bread, your white loaf should be sold at €16.80 for us to survive... It’s not an increase, it’s an assassination! The end of a profession and the lives that go with it."
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For the Dumont bakery and many others like it, this bill is the nail in the coffin. The owners have been left with no choice but to close after 19 years of operation.
“We never thought we would experience such an event… But with the shameful rise in the cost of electricity and the inaction of our government we are unable to continue."