By HÉLÈNE GOUPIL
La Victoria is only one of thousands of bakeries across the country dealing with a sharp hike in wheat costs.
Those prices jumped by 51.5 percent to $238 dollars per metric ton in the last year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Wheat prices eased somewhat in early October when commodity prices tumbled, but so far the savings have yet to be passed on to bakery customers. Moreover, droughts in the Ukraine and Australia, the world’s leading suppliers of wheat, have damaged crops so badly that prices are expected to keep rising.
“It’s like a perfect storm of factors,” said Eric Wolfinger, an assistant baker at Tartine Bakery on 18th and Guerrero Streets, referring to the financial crisis that means less expendable income and the droughts that have made wheat prices skyrocket.
It’s even worse in Australia, he said. “One baker we know is looking at shipping a container of flour every three days from the States,” said Wolfinger, who is paying nearly $50 for 50 pounds of organic flour now, compared to only $12 for the same amount just a few months ago.
Tartine’s costs have also increased because of a citywide insurance mandate for small businesses, Wolfinger said.
But elsewhere, it’s the cost of flour that has hurt bakers.
In Edwardsville, Ill., 222 Artisan Bakery owner Matt Herren said two weeks ago he paid $34 for a 50-pound bag of flour—nearly double the $18 he paid earlier.
“I can’t afford it,” Herren said, “and customers don’t want to pay $3 for a croissant.”
So far in San Francisco, consumers don’t seem to mind. People willing to pay $2.75 for a croissant or $8.50 form lines at Tartine’s even before the bakery opens its doors in the morning. In terms of their ingredient costs, Wolfinger said, a croissant represents $.65 and the loaf of bread $1.