In France, the land of sauces and vinaigrettes, there is hardly any mustard left. The supermarket shelves are empty in many places. While conspiracy theorists are spreading the word online that the shortage is artificial because supermarkets are deliberately hoarding the mustard instead of selling it, the real reason is as banal as it is dramatic: France gets 80 percent of its mustard seed production requirements from Canada. There was a severe drought there last year. The result: a miserable harvest of mustard.
In the few shops where you can still buy mustard, it is often rationed – to one or two glasses per person. Many restaurateurs also get into trouble. For example Pierre Grand-Girard in Douarnanez in Brittany. He offers fish and seafood in his restaurant and needs the mustard for the spicy mayonnaise that is traditionally served with the dishes. Grand-Girard called on his compatriots online not to hoard. In doing so, he triggered a local wave of solidarity: Neighbors came by to give him their valuable mustard jars.
The debate has already flared up in France as to whether it is necessary to ensure that such an important staple food as mustard is produced entirely in the country. The head of the agricultural trade union FNSEA, Christiane Lambert, recently made it clear on the French television channel BFMTV that there is no short-term solution due to a general undesirable development: "We have largely given up growing mustard plants here in France and have been importing them from Canada since then drought there and we're out of mustard. Until when? Until the next harvest."
The goal: independent production
In France, every Frenchman consumes an average of one kilogram of mustard per year, and they are proud of the famous mustard varieties from Bourgogne: with honey, with cassis, with tarragon – good French mustard comes in all colors and flavors. But now its price is also rising, by around 14 percent within a year, according to the IRI Institute in Chambourcy, which specializes in market issues.
Luc Vandermaesen, president of the Bourgogne Mustard Association, predicts that the situation will remain tense until 2024. The few mustard farmers still producing in Bourgogne see their chance and now want to increase their mustard cultivation quickly. "We want to triple our area to reach a total of 10,000 hectares," Fabrice Génin of the agricultural union told Les Echos newspaper.
The processing companies also seem to be willing to pay more for the raw material mustard seed in the future. So everything points to a renaissance of the bright yellow flowering mustard plant in France. But until it yields a larger harvest, the French will continue to have to face starvation.