On Amazon, retailers offer jars of mustard at astronomical prices

While mustard remains undetected on the shelves of most French stores, the condiment sees its price explode on online trading sites, where the pot is now traded for ten euros.

The French are not ready to season their meat or salad with mustard. Always absent from subscribers on supermarket shelves, the condiment is now traded at gold prices on the Internet and, in particular, on online trading platforms. A 165-gram bottle that previously displayed a price tag of 1.59 euros now sells for a dozen euros on Amazon, for example. Evolution remains of the same order of magnitude from one brand to another.

Declining availability pushing prices up

According to specialist research firm IRI, the price of mustard has seen its year-long increase accelerate between spring and summer. While its increase was just 9% in May, it topped 14% between July 2021 and 2022.

Another striking indicator is the mustard availability rate, which is plummeting compared to last year. According to the barometer produced by Nielsen, which BFM Business was able to consult, mustard is simply the product that has suffered the greatest shortages since the invasion of Ukraine. Last February, the mustard availability rate was close to 98%. Between early March and mid-August, that number dropped 21% to 60.5%. Over the course of a year, this drop reached 31% between the last two summers.

As the end of August approaches, mustard availability is improving, but the assortment remains well below usual levels, tempers Nielsen, while the availability rate rose to 73.3% at the end of the school holidays.

The Canadian situation remains the epicenter of the shortage

At the origin of this inflationary tension, a global shortage was fueled on two fronts in particular. On the one hand, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is crippling exports from these two big players in the mustard market. On the other hand, there is, above all, the situation in Canada, which supplies seeds of up to 80% to French mustard manufacturers and has drastically reduced its production during the pandemic. From 135,000 tonnes in 2019, this dropped to 50,000 tonnes in the 2021 financial year.

This drop is directly linked to global warming and more particularly to droughts that have considerably limited the Canadian harvest. And the outlook isn’t much better according to data and analytics firm Gro Intelligence, which mentioned a new drought episode a fortnight ago. The latter could ruin the production recovery seen in fiscal 2022, just before the annual harvest in September.

In the subject of the “Special Envoy” broadcast last Thursday, a representative of Westland Agro also mentions the case of Canadian producers who would take advantage of this lasting shortage to elevate the auction.

“The price of mustard has reached an all-time high,” explains Richard Boire. We never imagined it would sell for $2 a kilo! Suddenly, it’s an open market, a free market […] but the problem is that many people here are really waiting for the price to peak to sell. They feel they can achieve even more. Also, we still have producers who tell us ‘it’s not enough’!”

No improvement before 2024

Although it has production capacity in its soil, France is far from being able to compensate for the drop in seed imports. The large flea beetle, an insect particularly harmful to crops, has returned to mustard fields thanks to a European law that has regulated the use of insecticides in this type of crop since 2016.

For this reason, producers prefer to migrate to other crops, such as rapeseed or sunflower, while those who opted for organic produce still claim a very low level of production. The horizon is not clearing for manufacturers who are considering an extension of the shortage to 2023 with visible consequences through 2024.

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