Faced with soaring energy prices, French industry is cutting back

At Arc France, near Saint-Omer (Pas-de-Calais), September 13, 2022. The world leader in tableware, which is facing a surge in its gas bill, has decided to lower its production and to resort to partial unemployment.

“All of our work is to help businesses stay open, not close. » After Elisabeth Borne, the Prime Minister, who assured in mid-September during the presentation of the accompanying measures in the face of the energy crisisthat “sobriety is not producing less”, Bercy drives the point home: factories, warehouses and businesses must continue to operate despite soaring energy prices.

But no offense to the anthems of the executive, more and more factories are announcing that they are reducing their production, sometimes even interrupting it, like so many indicators that light up to warn of the seriousness of the situation.

Production stopped for five months in Loiret at Duralex, possible shutdown in the North of the LME steelworks as of October 31, activity in slow motion at ArcelorMittal or even halved at Arc France… the list continues to grow. In Custines (Meurthe-et-Moselle), near Nancy, it is a factory specializing in alloys which belongs to the Le Bronze-Alloys group, and employs thirty-two employees which announced its closure on Friday 16 September. “We knew that the cost of energy was going to explode and we saw fewer and fewer minted parts arriving at the workshop”says Yohann Claudon, Force Ouvrière (FO) staff representative and machine operator.

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Beyond the iron and steel, glass and metallurgical industries, which are particularly energy-intensive, tens of thousands of companies of all sizes are threatened. More than half of medium-sized companies, most often with an industrial activity, "may have to reduce their activity" if energy prices do not return to reason, “and 7% to stop it”, indicates the Movement of Intermediate Size Enterprises (METI).

Aid deemed too complex

Among the 22,000 members of the Fédération des entreprises et entrepreneurs de France (FEEF, mainly in the consumer goods sector), 42% expect their margins to drop by more than 30% by the end of the year. , indicates Léonard Prunier, the new president of the organization. The General Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (CGPME) for its part estimates, on the basis of surveys carried out among its members, that 150,000 businesses are threatened. “If nothing is done, we are at an impasse”, warns its president, François Asselin.

Admittedly, the executive has put in place measures to support businesses, but they are considered too complex – the Minister Delegate for SMEs, Trade, Crafts and Tourism Olivia Grégoire also announced, on Monday, that the device was going " most likely " be simplified – and their scope too restrictive. Faced with prices "multiplied by ten or fifteen" during the renegotiation of contracts between companies and their energy suppliers, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, the president of Medef, claims "a cap on the price of electricity".

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