Italian consumers stage "bread strike" over prices

Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:52am EDT
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By Stephen Brown

ROME (Reuters) - Consumer groups tried on Thursday to persuade Italians not to buy bread for a day, and to cut down on their consumption of other goods and services, to protest at price rises they say are not justified by raw material costs.

Baking and handing out free bread near Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's office, protesters called the 30 percent rise in bread prices over the past year a "rip-off" and demanded a moratorium on price hikes and lower taxes on staple goods.

"We have to stop this before it gets out of control, we have to stop the rise in price of food and energy costs," said Carlo Pileri, president of consumer group ADOC.

Such groups say costs of staple foods like bread and pasta ignore the fall in prices of commodities like wheat in recent months from their record highs in late 2007 and early 2008.

Last month there was a "pizza protest" in Naples over high prices and a year ago consumer groups held a "pasta strike".

Bakers, apparently doing good trade anyway, questioned the argument lower wheat prices should bring down bread, saying they had other costs besides flour, such as wages and electricity.

"People should really try and understand what is the cost of producing bread, with the costs of setting up and running a bakery," said Rome baker Fabrizio Roscioli.

Baker Giuseppe Bernadino said the average Italian family's food bill had risen only "2 or 3 cents a day" because of bread.   Continued...

<p>A baker kneads bread in a bakery in downtown Rome September 18, 2008. REUTERS/Tony Gentile</p>