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UKRAINE

How will France protect its economy from the effects of the Ukraine war?

The French government is set to present a plan which it hopes will protect businesses and consumers in France from the economic effects of the Ukraine war and ensuing sanctions. So what is this plan likely to contain?

How will France protect its economy from the effects of the Ukraine war?
Vehicles drive past a board indicating energy prices at a petrol station in southern France. (Photo by Pascal Guyot / AFP)

The government is set to present next week the multi-stage “economic and social resilience plan” promised by President Emmanuel Macron in his TV bulletin to the nation.

The Prime Minister’s Office at Matignon, which has been charged with developing the plans, said on Tuesday that the plan would ‘evolve’ according to the needs of France and in response to possible counter-sanctions from Russia.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Jean Castex held a five-hour meeting with representatives of the economic sectors affected by the invasion and with trade unions and employers’ organisations.

But what is the plan likely to include? 

The most important thing is, perhaps, what it won’t include. France’s Economy and Finance Ministry has said that – unlike the Covid pandemic – this is not a “whatever it takes” situation.

There is a great deal we don’t know, but it seems clear that the first stage will target help for households hit by rising prices as well as the most exposed businesses. 

Fuel pumps

Petrol in France has already hit €2 a litre and is likely to rise, dealing a heavy blow to motorists in rural France, as well as businesses. 

Macron has hinted at some of the packages he has in mind – suggesting that measures such as the €100 inflation allowance distributed in December, plus a mileage allowance for people who drive for work, may be brought in again.

“We are thinking about the [mileage allowance] tool” Matignon said, and has indicated that it will act to offset the rising price of fuel next week and urged motorists to remain calm – pointing out that France has enough strategic fuel stocks to cover the country’s needs for three months, even if no more oil was imported.

The resilience plan will consist of “a multi-stage response, with a package that will first deal with households and part of the (aid to) companies”.

For businesses, the sectors “have not asked for cross-cutting devices but rather targeted”, calling for “diverse responses”, observed the advisers of Matignon, citing the case of aerospace whose first supplier of titanium is a Russian company.

Gas prices 

Gas and electricity prices in France are currently capped at a four percent rise until June, and the price cap could be extended beyond this date.

As of March 1st, 21.6 percent of France’s natural gas reserves were still available, according to BFMTV. Normally, stocks build up from now, as warmer spring weather arrives – though they are still affected by seasonal fluctuations. A cold snap in April, similar to last year, would see demand rise again, for example.

France is less exposed to uncertainty over Russian gas supplies, since it also has its own domestic nuclear sector for power.

However, the PM’s office said: “We need to fill up our gas reserves as much as possible, in anticipation of the coming winter.

“France has a challenge to reduce its vulnerability in the medium term in terms of energy.” 

French business

The plan will also offer support to businesses directly affected by sanctions against Russia as they seek to secure raw materials from other sources and to deal with increases in energy costs. Again the aid will be targeted and specific.

“Our entire economy is not at risk of a sudden stop. But there will be collateral damage for businesses and households,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“We have engaged a census of the companies most concerned by possible disturbances, I think in particular on the gas market” industry minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, told BFMTV.

Food prices

It’s also likely that food prices will rise, both for imports and for domestically produced goods as farmers are hit by rising costs for fuel.

The agriculture industry has been among the sectors consulted and farmers have been singled out for support, in order that they will be able to minimise the price rises that they pass on to consumers.

Date

The plan will be presented “next week”, government spokesman Gabriel Attal told journalists on Wednesday, without mentioning a specific date.  

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FOOD & DRINK

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With rising inflation and cost of living, many people in France are desperate to keep their grocery bill low. Here are a few tips for how to avoid paying too much for food, drink and other everyday items.

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With inflation ticking upward, we’ve seen prices rise, especially for things like fresh vegetables, meat, pasta and cooking oil. Even though inflation is affecting food prices less than energy prices, buying groceries is still a huge part of every household’s budget, and unfortunately things are set to keep getting more pricey. 

We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can save a few euro at the supermarket:

Figure out if you qualify for any government benefits

First things first, it is worth seeing whether you can qualify for any existing government assistance, like CAF. On top of this, the French government has promised to set up a food voucher of €50 per month for low-income households after the parliamentary elections in June. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to receive CAF payments in France

Compare store prices

Unfortunately, going to the closest supermarket is not always the most economical solution. If you prioritise grocery stores on the lower end of the price spectrum (and you’re willing to walk a bit further) you can save a lot of money. A helpful tool to find the cheapest store near you is the “Que Choisir” online interactive map (click here) that has listed 4,000 affordable stores in mainland France. 

Discount grocery stores, like Lidl and Aldi, are great options for saving a little extra at checkout. But if you must go to a pricier chain, like Monoprix for instance, try to buy Monoprix brand items – they’re typically a little less expensive than name brand foods.

Plan ahead to make the most out of discounts

If you go online ahead of heading to the grocery store, you can see which items will be discounted (“promotion”). If you cannot find this information online, you can always go to the store and ask for a catalogue of that week’s sales items.

Normally, this is something the cashier should have access to. With these discounts in mind, you can construct more affordable recipes. 

Franprix’s website, the ‘discounts’ page

Also, if you’re looking for cheaper recipes in general, you can always go to blogs and online recipe sites specialised in frugal shopping. If you want to try some French specific sites, you can test out “https://www.marmiton.org/” or “https://1repas1euro.com/recettes/

When it comes to discounts though, be careful about conditions involved (particularly when it comes to loyalty cards).

Sometimes these promotions promise a lot, but actually getting your money back might not be as simple as slashing a few cents at the checkout – you might need to send the coupon somewhere to get the discount, or wait for points to accumulate on your card.

That being said, you can optimise your discounts using several online sites that allow you to combine your loyalty cards (Fidme, Fidall, and Stocard). Other online coupon sites include Groupon, which allows you to make grouped purchases (therefore cheaper), and Coupon Network and Shopmium, which help you benefit from existing discounts. For cashback plans, you can look to websites such as Shopmium, iGraal, FidMarques and Quoty, which allow you to be reimbursed for a part of your expenses.

Make a list, set a budget… and stick to it

It might seem obvious, but when you go into the store, try to resist temptation. The best way to do this is to keep track (in real time) how much you are spending.

Some stores make this easier by allowing you to carry around a ‘self-scanner,’ this will help you to watch your bill go up as you shop. Another tip for this is to withdraw the exact amount of cash you expect to need for the essentials of your trip – obviously in order to do this, you’ll need to know the base prices of your essential items, so it will require a bit of planning ahead.

Buy (then freeze) soon-to-expire products

A consumer’s best friend and sure-fire way to decrease waste! Items coming up on their use-by-date tend to be discounted, so if you plan to purchase these foods and then immediately freeze them, you can significantly extend their shelf life.

Lots of supermarkets make this easier for you by dedicating entire shelves to “short shelf life” items that, according to Elodie Toustou, the head of the “Money” section of the magazine 60 Millions de consommateurs, opting for these foods will allow you to “pay three to four times less.”

Another great way to do this is to use applications like “Phénix” and “Too Good to Go.” These applications will allow you to set your geographic parameter and then click on food stores, restaurants, and bakeries in your area that are getting rid of “panniers” (sacks) of soon-to-be-expired foods. Lots of times these panniers cost only a couple euros.

The trick here is to plan ahead by arriving at the start of the allotted time (if the boulangerie on your corner is offering “Too Good To Go” bags from 11am to 2pm, try to get there as close to 11am as possible for the best items).

Re-consider markets and farmer’s stores

Contrary to popular belief, buying from farmers’ markets and grocers that sell predominantly local products actually can save you money, particularly if you are buying the seasonally relevant fruits and vegetables. Buying directly from a producer can also allow you to eliminate the margin taken by intermediaries. But be careful, this rule is not true all the time.

One way to benefit from cheaper prices at markets is to arrive as late as possible, when the merchants have started to pack up their products. This might allow you to benefit from lower prices or even free items, as they’ll be hoping to get rid of their remaining items.

Know what items are most impacted by inflation

Finally, as inflation continues to increase, try your best to monitor which foods are most impacted. If possible, it might be worth removing or limiting them from your diet – or looking for more affordable alternatives.

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