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French mustard growers to double production in wake of market collapse

By RFI
Europe AFP - OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE
SEP 26, 2022 LISTEN
AFP - OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE

It's hard to find mustard in France right now. Local mustard growers say they will double their production after a collapse in output following supply chain failures due to drought. The problem should be sorted by Christmas, but it will be costly.

To remedy the current shortage of mustard, French growers are going to "more than double" their production, which until now has been largely augmented by Canadian producers.

In supermarkets and grocery shops across France, jars of the condiment – emblematic of Dijon, the capital of Burgundy – are scarce or even absent.

In an effort to prevent panic buying, posters in outlets warn consumers that only "one jar per household" is allowed.

The shortage – which largely predates the war in Ukraine – is due to the heatwave that cut the 2021 mustard seed crop in Canada in half.

Canada, the world's largest producer, supplies about 80 percent of the seed, with the remaining 20 percent almost entirely produced in Burgundy.

Climate hazards, insect attacks

In reaction to the penury of mustard on the shelves, Luc Vandermaesen, president of the Burgundy Mustard Association, which unites growers and mustard producers, says it is important to increase the amount produced locally, in order to cope with climatic hazards, which vary from one country to another.

Local cultivation of mustard seeds has made the Dijon region famous since the Middle Ages.

However, an increase in insect attacks – which the industry can no longer combat with now-banned chemicals – has cut production from 12,000 tonnes to 4,000 over the past five years, while the "mustard makers" require 16,000 tonnes to meet demand. 

Double or quits 

To motivate French producers, mustard growers have put their hands in the pot: "We have more than doubled the price" offered for Burgundy seed between the 2021 and 2023 harvests, stresses Vandermaesen.

From €900 in 2021, prices rose to €1,300 in 2022, a hike which encouraged a 50 percent increase in production.

For next year, mustard growers are offering €2,000 per tonne.

According to Jérôme Gervais, a mustard expert at the Côte d'Or Chamber of Agriculture: "The call has been heard: we have just over 10,000 hectares and the number of producers has risen from 160 to over 500. This is more than we hoped for."

The more attractive price has brought previously discouraged farmers back to the mustard fields.

Providers of the finished product say they hope the French shortage will be resolved in time for Christmas.

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