Climate change, price increases hit Dijon mustard

Dijon (France) (AFP) – Climate change and soaring prices are the seeds of a crisis for France’s famous Dijon mustard maker, which is making its prospects far more lukewarm than its product.

The industry’s hardships are a prime example of the difficulties facing the food industry as a whole.

According to a report from Canada’s Department of Agriculture, mustard seed production decreased by 28 percent in 2021-2022 in Canada, the world’s largest producer.

As a result, the average price is expected to be nearly double that of 2020-2021, to “a record of $ 1,700 per ton,” the ministry said.

“There was a devastating drought in western Canada last summer,” said commodity market analyst Ramzy Yelda to AFP.

“If you want the high-end mustard, you have to pay more,” he warned.

And when Canada coughs, Burgundy, 7,000 kilometers away in central France, catches a cold.

The French region is home to the vast majority of mustard manufacturers, but relies heavily on Canadian farmers to make the strong, flavorful condiment consumed around the world.

“We are in a crisis that we have not seen for 25 years,” said Christophe Planes, French sales manager at Reine de Dijon, the third largest French mustard producer and a subsidiary of the German group Develey.

“The price of seeds has risen three or four times, and maybe soon five times,” added Planes.

“And on top of that, there is no supply. The scarcity is so great that we have a possible 50 percent decrease in seeds … so our production has decreased by 50 percent.”

Spiral of costs

To make matters worse, the prices for all packaging materials are exploding.

“I hear of an increase every day. The impact on total prices is more than 60 percent,” Planes told AFP.

Marika Zimmermann, industrial director of the company based near Dijon, underlined the problem.

“Our production lines normally work 120 hours a week. We are currently at an average of 60 hours. “

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Marc Desarmenien, director of the Fallot mustard factory, the last independent mustard mill in Dijon in Burgundy, can enumerate the individual increases in his company.

“The metal lids have increased by 42 percent, glass by 12 percent, cardboard by 12 percent …”

Burgundy white wine, another key ingredient, has doubled in price due to a late frost that severely affected last year’s harvest.

The mustard maker, which exports half of its production to Japan, also points to the enormous increase in sea freight costs, which in its opinion have been “multiplied by 4.5 or even 6 times” and 10-15 percent of the selling price turn off.

Fallot has already decided to increase the price of its mustards by 7-16 percent over the next year.

Reine de Dijon is also planning an increase: “We need them, otherwise the company cannot survive,” said Planes.

To alleviate the company’s problems, Planes wants to limit its dependence on Canadian suppliers and promote mustard seed production in Burgundy.

“Increase in insect populations”

Fabrice Genin, mustard seed producer in Marsannaye-le-Bois in Burgundy and President of the Association of Burgundy Mustard Seed Producers (APGMB), has a succinct answer to this idea: “This is impossible.”

In the past, local production of seeds for the French mustard industry was widespread, which has given Dijon its reputation since the Middle Ages.

In recent history, however, production has declined sharply due to the globalization of trade and competition from higher-yielding countries.

After efforts to revive mustard seed production in France, local farmers are now suffering from global warming which “has led to an increase in insect populations over the past 3-4 years,” Genin said.

“Sometimes there is no production at all. The industry is no longer allowed to use insecticides that are approved in Canada, ”he complained.

In Burgundy, seed production has therefore decreased from 12,000 tons three or four years ago to 4,000 tons in 2021, “while mustard producers may order 16,000 tons from us,” he added.

“We are afraid for the future,” said Planes, summarizing the needs of the industry.

He hopes 2023 will get better for Reine de Dijon and the entire mustard industry, but fears further price hikes will shake up the pot.

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