Inflation forces Parisian sellers to raise commodity prices



PARIS – At the Marché d’Aligre, a bustling outdoor food and antique market in the Bastille district of central Paris, Mohamed Sharif grabbed a piece of chalk and reluctantly increased the price of scented clementines of Valence which he sells to crowds of buyers.

The costs of transporting products imported to France have more than doubled since the fall amid soaring gasoline prices, he said, one of the many factors that have pushed up wholesale prices. oranges from Spain, lychees from southern China and passionfruit from Vietnam – and the price he has to charge at his fruit stand.

“Customers don’t understand why they have to pay more for what they buy,” said Mr Sharif, valuing a pound of clementines a recent weekend at 1.90 euros (around $ 2.15), down from 80. cents ($ 0.90) per week. earlier. “People are buying less because the costs are going up. “

Prices for meat at a nearby butcher have risen 10 percent since the summer. Some French cheeses are expected to increase by 20 percent in the new year. Even the traditional baguette, a staple of the French diet, will become more expensive, say bakers.

Inflation, relatively calm in Europe for almost a decade, is starting to be felt as high energy prices, labor shortages and supply chain bottlenecks triggered by the end of pandemic blockages in daily life.

A record annual price increase of 4.9% in the euro area last month is affecting European businesses, factories and trade. But people who are trying to put food on the table are also starting to be in a hurry.

The European Central Bank has previously insisted the spike will be temporary. But last week, the bank was forced to raise its inflation forecast for 2022 to 3.2%, from 1.7% expected in September, when the price hike will not be as transitory as previously thought. .

This is hardly a novelty for the regulars of the Marché d’Aligre, the oldest food market in Paris, founded in 1779. Animated by generations of traders, the market is in the image of the city itself, attracting low-income families, middle-income and affluent foodies who flock to fresh produce, cheeses, spices, and flea market bargains.

Outdoor fruit and vegetable vendors are known as the cheapest in Paris, and strive to keep prices affordable for staples like tomatoes and potatoes, regardless of economic conditions, Remy said. Costaz, whose family has been running a fruit stand since 1905.

But the costs of a wide variety of products, from pork to passion fruit, have increased with the inflationary surge. Among market window dressers and low-income buyers, the impact is already being felt. And many are bracing for the worst.

Simone Ginestet, a pensioner living on a fixed pension, traveled 45 minutes by train from her apartment near Versailles to buy fruit and vegetables. Apple prices in her middle-class neighborhood jumped to € 6.50 per kilo, while pears had hit € 7 per kilo, up 10-20% in two months, she said.

“It’s huge,” lamented Ms. Ginestet while rummaging at a discounted table where baskets of almost expired pears were at € 1. “Especially when you have modest means, how do you get there?

At the southern end of the market, where discount food vendors abound, people carrying shopping bags on wheels gathered around La Petite Affaire, a mini-market that sells dairy products, cold meats and d ‘other foods close to their best before date for less than half the price.

Hicham El Aoual, 27, opened a bag to reveal his purchases: orange juice, yogurts and other basics which cost him € 15. These days, he said, he tries to avoid the big French supermarkets, where the prices for the same basket of goods are almost double.

Mr El Aoual, who has worked in real estate and as an internal auditor for large supermarket chains, said rising costs for transport, energy and warehouse storage have steadily increased what people have been paying for groceries since governments ended pandemic lockdowns.

“The problem,” he said, “is that prices are going up but not wages. Mr. El Aoual added that he had not had an increase for three years. “I’m on a tight budget, it’s hard to save, and I have to shop at a discount store,” he said.

Not everyone experiences rising prices the same way. Inside the Beauvau Market, the historic covered market of the Aligre Market, with top quality butchers, fishmongers, and cheese and poultry sellers, shoppers were eyeing capon, oysters and truffles for the holidays. .

Florian Bocciarelli, who runs the Boucherie du Marché d’Aligre, like his father and grandfather before him, was smiling under the twinkle of the holiday lights as he wrapped a € 44 glass jar of foie gras for a customer.

Yet more often than not, Bocciarelli said, his customers are increasingly buying products like pork, which is cheaper than other meats. Since the summer, rising prices for grains, soybeans, corn and wheat used to feed animals have pushed up the price of steak, veal and lamb by an average of 10 percent.

“People are more careful with their consumption,” he said. “No one really expects the prices to go down.”

At the Comptoir des Fromages et de la Bière, an artisanal cheese and beer shop, its owner, Isabelle Pommier, was preparing for a 15 to 20% increase in the prices of cheese and butter in 2022.

“Our suppliers have already warned us that a significant price increase is coming,” said Ms. Pommier, delicately placing the Vacherin, Camembert and Comté cheeses in a refrigerated case. Rising feed and fuel prices have exacerbated the decline in French milk production, suffocating dairy farmers and increasing costs for cheese makers, she said.

Ms. Pommier’s business has not yet been affected. Many customers saved money during the Covid lockdowns and could afford to splurge on artisan cheese. But she feared there would be a “snowball effect” next year if higher supplier bills force her to raise prices.

Once that happens, it’s hard to go back. “In the 20 years that I have worked here, I have never seen the prices go down,” she said. “They go one way – up.”

French bread is not spared either. At Farine + O, an artisan bakery, and in bakeries across France, the price of a traditional baguette is expected to rise up to 10 cents over the new year, from the current range of $ 1 to $ 1.00. € 20, said Charlotte Noel and Adriana Ostojic. , employees who actively sold the bakery’s award-winning breads and pastries to a phalanx of customers.

The price of bread plays an important role in the history of France. After the shortage of breads helped ignite the French Revolution, the government set prices to ensure bread remained affordable for everyone. These regulations ended in 1986, but bakeries will try to pass the rising costs on to products like brioche before touching the sacred baguette.

It became more difficult amid skyrocketing wheat prices and higher electricity bills for bakers’ ovens. When the cost of a wand goes up, said Ms. Noel, “there’s no question it impacts people.”

At the Frangines d’Aligre fishmonger, the chaos of Britain’s exit from the European Union had also pushed up prices. A trade war between France and Britain has raised the price of pollock and other fish in disputed waters by 40 percent, said Christine Divenzo, the owner. “Everything is more expensive,” she said.

“It is happening all over the world,” added Hassan, the store’s fishmonger, declining to give his last name. “The result is that the rich get very rich and the poor get poorer and poorer,” he said. “Just look at the soup kitchens around Paris, where the lines are longer than they’ve ever been. “

At the Marche d’Aligre flea market, where shoppers rummage for inexpensive vintage clothes and knick-knacks, Emile Nataf probed a swarm of shoppers at his one-euro table, dotted with glasses, plates and dots. other mismatched trinkets he collects by cleaning people storage rooms.

Recently, he has noticed a change in consumers of modest means. “People are trying to negotiate the prices down, even if it’s all just a euro,” he said. “It hasn’t happened before.”

He watched an older woman and a young couple snoop around the junk.

“People just have less money to get by,” he said. “Something must give. “



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