Seeds of change for Dijon mustard amid shortage due to heat waves
Published: Sep 15, 2022 05:52 PM
Mustard flowers bloom at Chino Hills State Park in Chino Hills, California, the United States, on April 15, 2017. Photo: Xinhua

Mustard flowers Photo: Xinhua

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 heat wave 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 in 2021. Now French mustard makers aims 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," Luc Vandermaesen, president of the Burgundy Mustard Association, an industry group, told AFP.

"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).

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 2021, falling from 12,000 tons to 4,000 tons. In June, local producers were urged to double the area planted with mustard seeds.

As an incentive, mustard makers agreed to pay 2,000 euros ($2,008) per ton for Burgundy seeds in 2023. 

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."