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Cologne, Germany (AP) — The family of Engelbert Schlechtrimann has been making wheat rolls, rye bread and chocolate cakes in this West German town for 90 years. Next month, they will turn off the oven for good, because they can no longer tolerate rising energy prices as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Schlechtrimann’s grandparents founded the bakery in Cologne before World War II. The 58-year-old took over the business from his father 28 years ago and transformed it into an organic store that uses traditional recipes and bans chemical additives in the bakehouse.

Still, even these innovations won’t save them from closing the family business—which includes a bakery and two stores employing 35 people—after nearly a century. It is the victim of a European energy crisis prompted by Russia’s cuts to natural gas, which is used to heat homes, produce electricity and power factories.

The resulting rise in energy and electricity prices has squeezed businesses already struggling with rising other costs as inflation rises.

“For some time now, we have been grappling with multiple crises at the same time: job vacancies, personnel shortages, closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, steep rise in raw material costs, and now the explosion of energy costs and so forth. Increase personnel costs,” Schlechtrimann said this week.

He pointed to a 50% increase in the cost of materials. And “now, there’s also the energy cost crisis. So far, we’ve only seen a 70% increase as we heat the furnaces with diesel oil. The price is expected to rise four-fold.”

Schlechtrimen tried to save energy wherever possible – but this was not enough to make up for the rising expenses.

They also raised the prices of their products to cover their rising costs, but customers, who are tightening their belts as inflation rises, stayed away and turned to discounters selling industrially manufactured baked goods for less money. Turned.

Eventually, Cologne Baker had to admit that he was no longer making enough profit to sustain his business.

Schlechtrimen isn’t the only baker struggling to make a living in Germany these days. Small, family-owned bakeries across the country are finding it difficult to cover their costs.

“Many businesses in the bakery business are worried about how they are going to get over the next few months. “They are facing a cost tsunami,” said Friedmann Berg, managing director of the German Bakers Confederation.

“We’d like to see a financial bailout for our bakeries, the federal government provides to help our businesses effectively, quickly and non-bureaucratic,” Berg said.

The German government this month announced an investment of an additional 65 billion euros in a new round of measures aimed at easing the brunt of inflation and high energy prices for consumers.

But for people like Schlechtrimen, help is coming too late.

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Kirsten Grischber and Pietro di Cristofaro contributed to this Berlin report.

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After 90 Years, German Bakery Will Shut Down As Energy Costs Rise

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