So….further to my discussion about how the August holiday period has impacted the lives of those of us living in Paris: new information has come to light suggesting that our situation has worsened. Sound the alarms…..for we are having a Baguette Crisis in Paris!! Yes, there is a severe shortage of baguettes in the city as a result of so many bakers taking their holidays at the same time! Mon Dieu….how dare they! What ever shall we do??
According to the various articles I’ve read, the French government, in an effort to reform the country’s labour markets and stimulate growth, for the first time in more than 50 years, relaxed regulatory control this year regarding the amount of holidays bakers can take. Until this point bakers were considered a quasi-public service and, therefore, there were controls placed on how many bakers could be away at any one time. Specifically, bakers would be informed by the city’s administrative authority which weeks they could take off. This system ensured every area of the city would have an artisanal baker open nearby over the slow summer months.
Man, you’ve got to love a country that takes having fresh bread daily so seriously.
However, much of that changed this year and, as a result, we find ourselves in our current crisis. The restrictions on holidays were relaxed and bakers were told they could take off as much time as they wanted during July and August. According to Rémi Héluin, founder of the blog “Painrisien” about Parisian bakeries: “Parisians are in a grotesque situation, many of the artisanal bakers have decided to close at the same time, and there has been a total lack of co-ordination.” –
Rémi estimates that approximately two-thirds of bakeries have been closed this August, compared to about one-half in the past. This means that, in some areas of the city consumers have been having a difficult time finding their daily freshly baked baguette and have been therefore “forced” to purchase supermarket sliced bread. According to some Parisians, this sliced bread “is not really bread at all“.
Oh the trauma that has befallen our city!
In spite of the current crisis however, Parisian bakers have not been completely deregulated – in fact, far from it. Since the revolution in 1789, where food shortages were partly to blame, bakers have had to declare any time taken off. There is also a law still in place from 1998 stating that to be called a boulangerie in France, the dough has to be kneaded, shaped and baked on the premises. No mucking about with pre-packaged dough or downstream purchases! As well, to control exploitation of the freshly baked bread market, the price of this bread was fixed until as late as 1986.
Finally, while bakers now have holiday freedom during the summer months of July and August, throughout the rest of the year they are still told which day they must take off each week to ensure that all bakeries are not closed at the same time. Not great for the bakers you might say, but for the rest of us, this should mean that come September 1st our baguette crisis should abate and we should be rolling in fresh warm bread once again.
So you see my friends, the large summer shut down here in Paris certainly does take a real and significant toll on everyone.