BUENOS AIRES – Bakers from the Argentine province of Buenos Aires gave out on Wednesday five tons of bread in a protest outside Congress against massive utility rates hikes.
“It’s a symbolic action that aims to bring attention to the situation 40,000 bakers in Argentina are suffering; a bakery that can’t operate normally ends up working informally, closes its shutters and works in the black economy,” the president of the ENAC business association, Leo Bilanski, told EFE.
Hundreds lined up at the plaza facing the Argentine Congress building, with people waiting more than a half hour for a kilo of bread.
The protesters called on the lower house of Congress, which on Wednesday achieved the necessary quorum for a special session to debate sharp rises in the cost of utilities, to declare a “rate emergency” and roll back prices to 2017 levels.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s administration has been rolling back subsidies that had kept gas, electricity and water prices and transportation fares in check in a bid to reduce a large budget deficit, but the move has caused inflation to surge.
The bakers also denounced a sharp recent rise in the price of their main ingredient, wheat flour, saying the cost of that product had climbed by more than 100 percent in the past two weeks.
The price increases affect common expenses at buildings where bakers’ stores are located, Bilanski said, adding that some owners have seen their electricity bills rise from 2,500 pesos (some $122) to 25,000 pesos (some $1,222) in a period of three years.
“There’s no way to have a bakery completely in good standing, no matter how hard you try. The costs are too high,” said Gonzalo Barragan, owner of the Colon bakery in the town of Lujan, Buenos Aires province.