‘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.”

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Three areas of Paris ban purchase of alcohol after 5pm

Certain areas in three Paris arrondissements have banned the purchase of alcohol in supermarkets after 5pm in an attempt to curb nighttime noise and disorder.

Three areas of Paris ban purchase of alcohol after 5pm

Purchasing alcohol in supermarkets – even in small quantities – will no longer be possible between the hours of 5pm and 8:30am on certain streets in the 9th, 10th and 12th arrondissements of Paris.

The new rule is an extension of an existing local decree passed in August 2022, which made it so that people could not consume alcohol in public spaces in certain parts of the above arrondissements after 4pm and could not purchase alcoholic beverages – including both wine, beer, cider and spirits – at supermarkets and corner shops after 9pm.

In total, 30 streets, boulevards and squares in the capital are affected by the change in rules. The decree outlines the borders for each sector, with the new rule applying specifically to “sectors 1 and 2 of the 9th, sector 2 of the 10th and sector 1 of the 12th”.

These include areas near Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Boulevard de Rochechouart, Rue de Faubarg-Saint-Denis on the right bank of the river. On the left bank, the roads affected are near Gare de Lyon in the 12th arrondissement. You can find a map of the areas concerned here.

Wine shops, bars, restaurants and other establishments that “sell such beverages exclusively” will not be affected by the change to the localised rule. This means that people will still be able to purchase alcohol in the areas where the ban on sales is applied, but only in certain establishments.

The adaptation of the decree will remain in effect until December 31st, though local authorities may choose to extend it again. Stores that do not follow the updated regulation could be subject to fines.

According to the decree, the goal of the updated rules is to decrease the amount of public intoxication and drinking. According to Le Parisien, the areas were picked because the city’s police prefecture found that they had issues with “persistent disturbances related to excessive alcohol consumption”, particularly nearby to the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est. 

While some inhabitants in the affected areas have expressed frustration at the new rules for purchasing alcohol, others welcomed the change.

Josiane, a retiree and resident of one of the streets impacted told Le Parisien that “the neighbourhood has become rowdy (…) at night, there are too many drunk people in the street. We are woken up in the middle of the night by screams and the sound of break-ins. Maybe this measure will help limit access to alcohol”.

Local authorities in France are allowed to restrict the purchase of alcohol. In many parts of the country, there are rules dictating whether or not alcoholic beverages can be sold in supermarkets on Sundays. Additionally local authorities can enact temporary rules regarding the consumption of alcohol in public spaces.

READ MORE: Closed, open or restricted shopping: What’s the deal with Sunday opening in France?

These are particularly common when large crowds are expected in public areas, such as after an important sporting event or during holidays like New Year’s Eve.