Representatives of France’s baking industry group, the Federation des Entrepreneurs de la Boulangerie (FEB) are making panicked noises as the country is gripped by high prices for butter — and a possible shortage of the dairy product.
The Guardian reports that butter has more than doubled in price since April 2016, from €2,500 to €5,300 per tonne ($2,818 to $5,975 USD) at present. The newspaper’s report focuses heavily on the impact a butter shortage would have on croissant prices — true, given that butter makes up around a quarter of any given croissant. But it would also impact any butter-reliant baked good, from pain au chocolat to brioche.
Butter prices started getting attention a few months back when one publication made the somewhat hyperbolic statement that the west coast region of Brittany was “out of butter.”
Milk producers gave two explanations for the problems. One is that powdered milk prices plummeted, so less of it is being produced. Because industrial butter production draws heavily on milk fats siphoned off during powdered milk production, reduced milk powder production means there’s less fat available for butter production. Producers also suggested that climate change was causing cows to produce milk with lower fat content, which would also affect the butter supply chain.
Back in May, the FEB sounded the alarm and lamented a “relative indifference” towards the country’s roughly 38,000 pastry workers. Then earlier this month, the organization called on retailers and caterers to hike prices on butter-laden goods due to rapidly shrinking margins.
The butter crisis might draw eyerolls at what seems like a petty and uniquely French problem, but pastry is a serious business in the country — the industry rakes in around €8.5 billion Euros ($9.58 billion American) annually.
• Sacré beurre: fears over croissant price hike as France faces butter shortage [The Guardian]
• La hausse du prix du beurre pourrait entraîner celle du prix des viennoiseries [Le Figaro]
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