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Reader question: Why can’t I find any mustard in France?

Limits on purchases are being imposed in some stores due to a global shortage of mustard grains.

Reader question: Why can't I find any mustard in France?
Photo by Clement Sabourin / AFP

Question: I haven’t been able to buy mustard for weeks, all the local supermarkets seem to have sold out, is there a shortage?

After recent limits on purchases of cooking oil caused by unnecessary panic-buying, now another staple of French cuisine is hard to come by – mustard.

The reason appears to be a ‘perfect storm’ of events in the world’s three largest mustard-producing countries; Canada, Russia and France.

Canada, the world’s largest mustard producer which provides 80 percent of the seeds that France imports, was hit by an “extreme heat dome” in July 2021, that halved the harvest, prompting the country to limit exports, Michel Liardet, president of Européenne de condiments, a company that specialises in the manufacture and packaging of mustard, told Le Point.

READ ALSO French food firms given permission to change recipes for crisps, cookies and ready-meals because of sunflower oil shortage

The world’s second largest producer, Russia, has had embargoes imposed on exports following its invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, grain prices increased fivefold between April 2021 and April 2022, while the price of packaged mustard has risen by nine percent over the same period, according to the market research institute IRI.

The mustard shortage has prompted Liardet to call for an increase in French production “in order to be less dependent on imports”.

However, harvests in France have declined in recent years, in part because of a ban on the spraying of pesticides on seeds.

It has lead to empty shelves in some supermarkets, while others have imposed limits on mustard-buying.

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FOOD & DRINK

France introduces stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés

The French government has introduced stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés, which must now display full information on the origins of all wines they serve.

France introduces stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés

If you’re ordering a bottle of wine it’s likely that the menu will state where the wine comes from, but previously this was not always the case for wines bought by the glass or carafe.

Most French cafés and restaurants offer wine by the glass as well as pitchers or carafes or various sizes, which are also sometimes referred to as un pot, particularly in the east of France.

Thanks to a new law that came into effect on July 24th, if you order any of these, the bar or restaurant is obliged to display full information on where the wine comes from, and its protected geographical origin (AOP) if it has one.

Any establishments that sell wine – whether for consumption on or off the premises – must display the information in full and in writing. Failure to do so makes them liable to a €1,500 fine. 

The law is a revision of the Loi relative à la transparence de l’information sur les produits agricoles et alimentaires, which came into force in 2020 and is intended to protect French farmers and producers.

French vocab

Une bouteille de vin rouge, s’il vous plaît –  a bottle of red wine, please

Une bouteille de vin blanc – a bottle of white wine

Un pichet de vin rosé – a pitcher of rosé wine

Une carafe de vin – a pitcher of wine

Pichet and carafe are just different words for the same thing, and if you want tap water (as opposed to mineral water) with your meal, ask for un pichet d’eau or une carafe d’eau. Carafes usually come in varying sizes, the most common being 50cl or 25cl.

Cinqante centilitres – 50cl, or two thirds of a bottle

Vingt-cinq centilitres – 25cl, or one third of a bottle

Un pot lyonnais – if you’re in or around Lyon, you might see wine listed on the menu as by the pot – this comes in a carafe that is shaped like a small bottle with a very thick glass bottom. The classic pot lyonnais holds exactly 46 centilitres, or just over half a bottle  

Un verre de vin rouge – a glass of red wine 

Encore de vin, s’il vous plaît – another wine, please (the ‘encore‘ lets your server know that you want another glass/bottle/pitcher of the same wine)

Vin bio – organic wine

Vin naturel – wine produced by ‘natural’ methods 

Bio, natural or biodynamic: 5 things to know about organic wine in France

Qui va goûter? – Who will taste? The standard question that your server will ask when they bring the bottle of wine to your table

Un pot-de-vin – a bribe. Not a wine term as such, but if you hear reference to un pot-de-vin it means a bribe. These days bribes are usually paid in cash, but the origins of the term are pretty clear.

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