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FOOD & DRINK

‘Confident for Christmas’ – How France plans to tackle mustard shortages

France's favourite condiment, Dijon mustard, is hard to find these days, with signs on supermarket shelves warning the lucky few who spot jars that they can only take one home.

'Confident for Christmas' - How France plans to tackle mustard shortages
Mustard has been in short supply in France in 2022. Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

A heatwave across the ocean in Canada, the world’s top mustard seed producer, is to blame for the drastic shortage that has dragged on for months in France.

Canada supplies around 80 percent of the mustard seeds used by French makers of the spicy condiment, the rest coming mostly from Burgundy, the region that surrounds Dijon.

But a drought slashed the Canadian harvest by half in 2021.

Now French mustard makers are aiming to boost production at home in Burgundy.

“It’s very important to increase that share so we can face weather risks that differ from one country to the other,” Luc Vandermaesen, president of the Burgundy Mustard Association, an industry group, told AFP.

“We can’t put all our eggs in one basket,” said Vandermaesen, who is also the chief executive of France’s third biggest mustard maker, Reine de Dijon (Queen of Dijon).

The Dijon region has been famous for its mustard seeds since the Middle Ages, but production has been decimated by pests as chemicals used to kill them have been banned.

Output was divided by three between 2017 and 2021, falling from 12,000 tonnes to 4,000 tonnes.

In June, local producers were urged to more than double the area planted with mustard seeds to 10,000 hectares.

“The Canadian problems revived the importance of the Burgundy sector,” said Fabrice Genin, president of the Association of Mustard Seeds Producers of Burgundy.

As an incentive, mustard makers agreed to pay €2,000 per tonne for Burgundy seeds in 2023, up from €1,300 last year and more than double what they paid in 2021.

The appeal appears to have worked, with 10,000 hectares planned for mustard seeds, said Jerome Gervais, a mustard expert at the chamber of agriculture in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or department.

The number of seed producers jumped from 160 to more than 500, he added.

“It’s more than hoped,” Gervais said.

Francois Detain, a farmer in Agencourt, gave up mustard seed production in 2019 after his fields were wrecked by a dry spring and an insect infestation.

But the price offered for mustard seeds allowed him to bring them back, even though Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made fertilisers more expensive.

A drop in the prices of grains and oilseeds has also made mustard seeds more attractive.

“It’s sort of a revenge for us to be able to replant a local crop,” Detain said.

Shipping costs – which have soared due to supply chain bottlenecks since Covid pandemic lockdowns were lifted – have also given an edge to Burgundy seeds over those from Canada.

By next year, Burgundy should be producing 15,000 tonnes of mustard seeds, meeting 40 percent of the needs of mustard makers, Gervais said.

“(Store) shelves should be replenished in October,” Vandermaesen said.

“The shortage will be completely over in early 2023. We are very confident for Christmas.”

Member comments

  1. Now if we could only resolve the mystery of Monoprix and MonoP being COMPLETELY out of aluminum foil in Saint-Etienne… 🙂

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FOOD & DRINK

Paris bakers bounce back with sharp rise in number of city boulangeries

If you’ve convinced yourself that the delicious and tempting aroma of baking bread seems a little more pronounced in Paris then your scent suspicions are accurate, according to new figures showing a strong growth in the number of boulangeries in the capital.

Paris bakers bounce back with sharp rise in number of city boulangeries

You might think that the busy pace of big city life would put paid to the tradition of going to a traditional boulangerie to buy your daily bread.

But after several years in which number of boulangeries in and around the capital did indeed decline, 110 new bakeries were listed by the Chambre des métiers et de l’artisanat (CMA) d’Île-de-France in 2022.

In the 20 arrondissements of Paris, there are now 1,360 bakeries – a jump of nine percent in the past five years. Twenty years ago, there were only 1,000 boulangeries in the capital.

Moving out into the greater Paris Île de France region, the number of boulangeries has jumped an average of 20 percent – and as much as 35 percent in the département of Seine-Saint-Denis. 

READ ALSO MAPS: How many Parisians live more than 5 minutes from a boulangerie?

They’re busy, too. According to CMA figures, Parisian boulangeries bake between 500 and 800 baguettes a day, compared to an average of 300 across France, and sell a variety of artisan-made breads and pastries.

That’s in spite of repeated crises – from the yellow vest protests and pandemic confinement, to the rising cost-of-living and soaring energy bills.

The CMA has said it has contacted every one of the bakers in Paris to find out how they are coping with rising bills, while an estimated 50 advisers are conducting energy audits to find ways for individual bakers to save money.

The secret of modern boulangers’ survival is not much of a secret – diversification.

“The profile of the artisan is not the same as it was fifty years ago, when making good bread was enough,” Jean-Yves Bourgois, secretary general of the CMA of Île-de-France, told Le Parisien. “They are much more dynamic: the offer is much wider, and they have been able to keep up with customers’ demand.”

READ ALSO

Bakeries have increasingly established themselves as an alternative to the fast-food kebab houses and burger bars by developing their product lines to include salads, sandwiches and warm meals for takeaway. Many also have an attached café or terrace for customers to while away their time.

As well as diversifying, bakers are consolidating. “Networks of artisanal bakeries (Kayser, Landemaine, Sevin, etc.) are expanding, and more and more Parisian artisans are managing several stores,” the Professional Association of Bakers in Greater Paris said.

“There have been other crises and we have held on. The bakery industry still has a lot of good years ahead of it,” Franck Thomasse, president of the professional association, said.

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