France’s favorite 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.
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 last year.
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,” said Luc Vandermaesen, president of the Burgundy Mustard Association, an industry group.
“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).
DOUBLE THE PRICE
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 last year, 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 euros (US$2,008) per tonne for Burgundy seeds in 2023, up from 1,300 euros last year and more than double what they paid last year. 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 fertilizers 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.”
On those rare days in Kaohsiung when the air is crisp and clear, the eastern horizon is dominated by a green wall that towers high above the Pingtung plains. This is the ridge running from Wutou Mountain (霧頭山), up to Beidawu Mountain (北大武山) at 3,092 meters. Many make the trek up to Beidawu, but very few walk the top of this wall over to Wutou, and for good reason: it is an unmarked, overgrown death trap with no reliable water and steep slopes full of rotten wood and crumbly rock. Last week, news emerged that a French couple called for rescue
One stormy night in May, Kim loaded his family into his home-made wooden boat and sailed away from North Korea, hoping to give his children a life of freedom. Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the peninsula was divided by war in the 1950s, but most go overland to neighboring China first. Defecting by sea is extremely rare and seen as far more dangerous than land routes, with only a handful of people making it across the de facto maritime border, the Northern Limit line. But Kim, a 31-year-old fisherman who asked that AFP use only his
Hitting tennis balls across a tree-lined court in Thailand’s mountainous north, Connie Chen’s weekly private training session is a luxury the Chinese national could barely afford when she lived in Shanghai. China implemented some of the world’s toughest COVID restrictions during the pandemic, putting hundreds of millions of people under prolonged lockdowns. In the aftermath, younger citizens — exhausted by grueling and unrewarding jobs — are taking flight to escape abroad. With a relatively easy process for one-year study visas, a slower pace of living and cheap living costs, Thailand’s second-largest city Chiang Mai has become a popular destination. “During the pandemic, the
Comedian Xi Diao says he knows he should avoid talking politics on stage, but sharing a family name with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) makes it hard to resist. Even his name is politically sensitive, the Melbourne-based amateur comedian tells audiences, setting up a joke about a group chat on the Chinese messaging service WeChat being shut down as soon as he joined it. The 33-year-old civil engineer gets nervous laughs whenever he breaks a de facto rule of Chinese comedy: Don’t say anything that makes China look bad. To most comedians, that means no jokes about censorship, no mentioning the president’s