"The cherries, I don't even approach them," tackles Danielle Rose, retired. "Honestly, I do according to my means and that means I have to deprive myself," admits the octogenarian in a hurry and disappointed, who leaves with a few sad yellow apples and two melons in promotion.

To protect their budget strongly impacted by inflation, customers who slalom between the stalls prefer fruits and vegetables of the summer season. Their prices have not soared for a year and have even sometimes fallen slightly, but they remain a "pleasure" product for the most modest.

Camped behind his peppers at 4 euros per kilo, Alexandre D'Arpa returns a few coins to a customer. "It's a... million euros, Madam, but I give change."

The young man has become a living distributor of jokes and spreads about soaring prices.

"We must pass the pill," justifies the shopkeeper who gives himself the mission, after having dismissed his four sellers, to "hold the time that inflation passes".

"No margin"

"But it lasts too long. Prices go up and quality goes down. The baskets are smaller and smaller, we sell less, we make less margin, "summarizes the trader, also administrator of the union of sellers of Parisian markets.

An unprecedented situation since the 1980s, the rise in consumer prices, which has been going on for months, still reached 14.1% for food products in France last May.

The government is trying with difficulty to put pressure on food manufacturers who are reluctant to renegotiate with supermarkets the contracts concluded for 2023, in order to quickly lower prices on the shelves.

at the Parisian market of Belleville, yet the cheapest in the capital, customers salivate in front of the abundance of summer stalls but pass their way © MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP / Archives

For French markets, including Belleville, a historic oasis of bargains, these prices are negotiated between retailers and wholesalers of the Rungis market (Val-de-Marne), where almost all the products sold on its 200 or so stalls come from.

"Today I buy the potato 1.50 euros excluding tax per kilo and I sell it for two euros: there is no margin," says M. D'Arpa on its flagship product.

On some other products, it is thus forced to catch up. A customer stands in front of the pile of garlic from Egypt and discovers its price on the slate: 9 euros per kilo. "My arms are falling off," she says before fleeing.

The shopkeeper, who was still selling the condiment for three euros per kilo the week before, gets out of yet another pirouette: "He did not swim the garlic, we paid him the plane ticket, Madam".

© 2023 AFP