By Ata Ufuk Seker
BRUSSELS (AA) - Soaring electricity and natural gas prices in Belgium have put bakeries in a tight spot, with some forced to close their doors as they can no longer pay the bills.
An energy-intensive sector, bakeries have to continue feeding to ovens for long hours without stopping, which translates into high gas and electricity consumption.
Natural gas prices have recently risen eightfold in Belgium, along with flour prices doubling and cooking oil prices quadrupling.
The Dumont bakery, after nearly 20 years in business, decided to close its doors after announcing that its energy bill had risen from €1,342 ($1,650) at the beginning of 2021, to €1,860 ($2,101) in early 2022, and €11,836 ($11,836) in September.
(Euro/US dollar parity was 1.23 at the beginning of 2021, 1.13 at the beginning of 2022, and around 1 in September.)
Adem Ezel, a baker with 30 years of experience, said the biggest problem in the sector is climbing electricity and natural gas prices.
"Gas bills rose from €1,400 to €10,800, with the electricity bill around €2,800, totaling €15,000 altogether, which is a very large sum," he said.
He added that the price per ton of flour jumped from €450 to €850, while the price of cooking oil went from €0.9 to €4.
Saying that many bakeries can’t pay their debts to wholesalers and closed their doors, he said they can’t stay open for more than two or three years under these conditions.
Mecnun Arslan, who has been a baker in Belgium for 14 years, said following the beginning of the Ukraine war this February, some prices shot up.
Saying that bakeries are facing tough times, Arslan said his firm had to let some workers go and downsize their products while hiking prices.
"Our energy bill used to be €1,000, but now we pay €3,000, and flour prices also jumped from €450 to over €800," he added.
*Writing by Gokhan Ergocun in Istanbul