ATHENS, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- As the President of the Federation of Professional Confectioners of Greece, Ioannis Glykos recently received constant phone calls from anxious confectioners asking him to request more state subsidies for energy costs.
Many have reached deals with electricity companies to pay their bills in instalments, but 10 percent of shops have recently shut down, Glykos said.
He said that Greek bakers and confectioners are struggling to make ends meet. Soaring energy prices, which have triggered a wave of price increases for other goods and services, have dealt the third heavy blow of the last 12 years to the sector.
During the Greek debt crisis (2010-2018), incomes in Greece shrank on average by 25 percent, according to official data. Meanwhile, pastry shops recorded a 20-30 percent decline in business. To deal with this situation, confectioners cut back on staff expenses, and negotiated lower rents for their stores.
A similar approach was taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, in the current crisis, the confectionery industry is rapidly sinking in debt due to overwhelming price hikes for energy and basic ingredients, Glykos said.
"We managed to get through (the first two crises), but we cannot fight this. For this store, last year in June I paid 4,000 euros (4,000 U.S. dollars) for electricity. This year (for the same period) I received a bill for 14,000 euros.
"We are at the brink of collapse. Businesses cannot cope," he said.
Small and medium-sized businesses like pastry shops, which are the backbone of the Greek economy, are pinning their hopes on the upcoming holiday season to cover some of the losses of recent months.
Greece's annual inflation rate increased to 12 percent in September this year, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
The increase is primarily linked to the rise in energy costs over the past year. Natural gas prices have soared by 332 percent compared to a year ago, and electricity prices by 30.5 percent.
"Our bills have tripled," said baker Tassos Vazakas, although he did acknowledge that the state has subsidized the industry.
Some 10 billion euros have been provided by the Greek government this year to support households and businesses, according to the Finance Ministry.
While acknowledging that the government has already helped households and businesses, Vazakas underlined that more needs to be done.
Official figures show that around 200 stores out of 20,000 in the country have been forced to close, but Vazakas warned that more closures could follow if the situation worsens after the Christmas holidays. ■