French dijon mustard supply hit by climate and rising costs, say producers | Food & drink industry

Climate change and rising costs are causing supermarkets in France to run out of dijon mustard, raising questions over whether the shortage could spread to other countries.

French mustard producers said seed production in 2021 was down 50% after poor harvests, which they said had been brought on by the changing climate in France’s Burgundy region and Canada, the second largest mustard seed producer in the world.

It has caused French supermarket shelves to run empty of the condiment, including in several stores visited by the Guardian.

One of France’s largest mustard producers, Reine de Dijon, said the shortages were being driven by climate breakdown. The group’s general manager, Luc Vandermaesen, said a “heat dome” in Canada at the beginning of July in 2021 had “really dried up the crops”.

He added: “In Burgundy, the region had a very wet winter and then three days of cold at the beginning of April last year, so we only harvested about 48% of expectations.”

The war in Ukraine has further restricted seed supply, with both Ukraine and Russia being major exporters of the crop, something which has resulted in costs rocketing, said Vandermaesen.

The group tried to purchase 50 tonnes of seed on the market in April, which he said was “six times the normal price the year before”.

Burgundy-based dijon producer Edmond Fallot also said additional cost pressures around raw materials were having an impact on production.

A spokesperson for the group said: “Since Burgundy is a quite small region, we are even more exposed if the weather is bad. We also suffer from heavy tensions on raw materials markets [such as] glass, paper, wine, carton, which is slowing down production.”

The shortages in France raise questions over whether the UK market could suffer similar supply issues, though retailers and producers appear calm for now.

Morrison’s described it as “as industry-wide issue”, while a spokesperson for Waitrose said they were working with suppliers but “currently [had] a wide range of brands available”. The British Retail Consortium, which represents UK retailers, said the impact was “very limited at the moment”.

It is understood that Maille, a popular dijon mustard brand in the UK, has experienced seed supply issues, while English mustard brand Colman’s remains unaffected. Unilever, which owns both brands, declined to comment.

David Martin, the chief executive of Condimentum, a UK-based company which processes the bulk of UK mustard seed and supplies Unilever, said they had seen “a huge spike in interest” from global brands looking for mustard seed and flour as a result of the supply issues overseas and after a strong UK harvest.

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He added that 2023 would be the year to watch, with uncertainty over whether Canadian farmers would stick with the crop or opt for something less risky.

“I suspect the global shortage in the short to medium term will just get worse and I think there will be some outages in terms of supermarket shelf availability,” he said.

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