Between them, Russia and Ukraine represent 78 percent of the world’s sunflower oil exports and the war has been leading to concerns about shortages – although any effect will not be felt until the summer at the earliest.
Despite this, shoppers have been panic-buying, leading to empty shelves in French supermarkets.
“There is no shortage for current consumption and there will not be until the summer,” Michel-Edouard Leclerc said. His views were echoed by System U president, Dominique Schelcher, who said. “There will be products, don’t panic.”
France also produces its own sunflower oil – visit the south of the country in the summer and its hard to avoid seeing rolling fields of sunflowers.
Nevertheless, some supermarkets have decided to limit the maximum amount of sunflower oil that shoppers can buy in order to ensure there are no acute in-store supply issues caused by unnecessary panic-buying.
Professionals are also facing restrictions. Restaurant wholesaler Metro has limited restaurant customers to a maximum of 50 litres of sunflower oil per day, while industrial-scale food manufacturers have requested permission from the government to use alternatives such as rapeseed, palm or olive oil, if necessary, to make products such as crisps or biscuits without having to change already printed packaging – which would pose logistical issues.
The increase in demand has seen sunflower prices soar from €640 per tonne in February to nearly €1,000 today – increased costs that will in time be passed on to consumers.