In supermarkets, hypermarkets and grocery stores across France, jars of Dijon mustard are rare, if not absent. “One pot per household”, restrict the number of posters stuck on the deserted shelves.

The shortage, which largely predates the war in Ukraine, is in fact attributable to the heat wave which cut the 2021 mustard seed harvest in Canada by about half. The world’s leading producer, this country provides around 80% of the seed, the remaining 20% ​​being almost entirely produced in Burgundy.

“It is therefore very important to increase this percentage to face the climatic hazards which are different from one country to another”, explains to AFP Luc Vandermaesen, president of the Mustard Association of Burgundy (AMB), which includes mustard growers and mustard seed growers.

Once very widespread, the local cultivation of seeds had made the reputation of the Dijon region since the Middle Ages, but a multiplication of insect attacks, which the sector can no longer fight with now banned chemicals, has divided the production by three in four years, from 12,000 tonnes in 2017 to 4,000 tonnes in 2021 while mustard makers wanted 16,000.

But “Canadian problems have revived the importance of the sector in Burgundy”, explains Fabrice Genin, president of the Association of Burgundy Mustard Seed Producers (APGMB).

“Yes, there is a concern for relocation. We cannot put all our eggs in one basket,” said Mr. Vandermaesen, also managing director of “Reine de Dijon”, France’s third-largest mustard producer.

A call was therefore launched in June to local producers with the aim of multiplying by 2.5 the areas planted with seeds, i.e. 10,000 hectares against 4,000 in 2022.

– Price more than doubled –

To motivate them, the mustard makers have put their hands in the pot: “We have more than doubled the price” offered for the grain of Burgundy between the 2021 and 2023 harvests, confesses Mr. Vandermaesen.

From 900 euros in 2021, prices had risen to 1,300 euros in 2022, already causing a halving of production. For 2023, the mustard makers are offering 2,000 euros per ton.

At this price, the candidates flocked. “The call has been heard: we have a little more than the 10,000 hectares wanted and the number of producers has increased from 160 to more than 500. This is more than hoped for”, explains Jérôme Gervais, mustard expert at the Chamber of agriculture of Côte d’Or.

Because the tempting price has made lost sheep come back to mustard. Like François Détain, farmer in Agencourt (Côte d’Or): “the price we are offered allows us to get into our nails”, even with the surge in fertilizers due to the war in Ukraine, he explains.

François Détain had abandoned this crop in 2019 due to a “catastrophic yield with a very dry spring and insects”. But today, “the seed is well placed” compared to cereals, rapeseed or sunflower. “Especially since there has been a tumble in grain and oilseed prices.”

“For us, it’s a kind of revenge to be able to replant a local culture,” he says.

The cost of freight, which has exploded since 2021, has also put into perspective the higher price of Burgundy seed compared to Canadian, by “15-20%”, according to Mr. Gervais.

As a result, “we should produce 15,000 tonnes in 2023”, or 40% of mustard needs. “We will be the second producers of seeds serving Dijon”, behind Canada, welcomes the expert.

“The shelves will therefore be replenished in October” thanks to the Burgundy harvest of 2022, already larger, then “the shortage will completely disappear at the beginning of 2023”, predicts Mr. Vandermaesen. “We are very confident for Christmas,” he says.