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Milk Fat Mayhem Heightens as France’s Butter Shortage Worsens

High demand and a low milk yield over summer are to blame

Shutterstock (edited)/Matthieu Decraene

France has been suffering from a butter shortage for some months now (the per-ton price doubled from April to June of this year alone) — but now the problem is getting more acute, with supermarkets unable to stock shelves with France’s favorite fat.

Now, French butter is valued at 7,000 Euros per ton, up from 2,500 per ton in spring 2016. A mixed bag of reasons have been offered up to explain the shortage: high demand for French butter in other countries (spurred by suggestions that butter isn’t as unhealthy as once thought, prompting more demand), and a low milk yield over the summer in France. The Guardian suggests that the EU’s elimination of milk quotas in 2015 indirectly caused the problem — dairy production initially skyrocketed, crashing prices and causing production to drastically shrink again.

Adding to the problem, because supermarkets often fix their butter prices just once a year in France and are generally reluctant to hike prices, producers and wholesalers have found that they can extract more money by selling their wares in neighboring countries like Germany, where prices went up 52 per cent, compared to France’s six per cent. In short, it’s the perfect storm for milk fat mayhem.

Empty butter shelves in a French supermarket
Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a particular problem for France’s 8.5 billion Euro (per year) baking industry: French baking lobby group, the Federation des Entrepreneurs de la Boulangerie, called it a “major crisis”, and for good reason: croissants are made up of 25 per cent butter, so any shortage or price increase has an obvious effect on baking operations and sales.

But it’s not all doom and gloom: some have taken to the internet to either laugh at or cash in on the situation. In the west-coast province of Brittany, one person was seen advertising a block of demi-sel butter for 250 Euros online, according to Le Figaro.

French agriculture minister Stéphane Travert took to the airwaves to quell fears, noting that milk production will pick up in the fall and winter seasons — while he noted to Sud Radio that this won’t lead to an immediate fix, prices “will progressively return to normal over time”.

Possible Butter Shortage Sparks Pastry Panic in France [E]
La pénurie de beurre ne va pas durer (Travert) [Le Figaro]
Beurre: jusqu'à 250 euros la plaquette sur internet [Le Figaro]
Croissants in crisis: could French bakers crumble amid butter shortage? [The Guardian]