Amid its butter crisis, France could run out of foie gras just in time for Christmas

How much are the French willing to pay?
How much are the French willing to pay?
Image: Reuters/Regis Duvignau
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It’s the most wonderful time of year for most, but this year the French may disagree. The country is facing shortages of three of its favorite delicacies as the festive season approaches: butter, foie gras, and wine.

Foie gras production has been damaged by France’s battle with bird flu over the last two years, with thousands of birds being slaughtered in the south-west of the country. With just a few weeks to go until Christmas, French supermarkets are responding to serious supply issues by hiking up prices.

Foie gras production dropped 25% in 2016, and Marie-Pierre Pé, head of supplier Cifog, said that downward trend has continued this year, with production down a further 22%.

“Stocks of foie gras have dwindled after some producers in areas like western Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie had to stop activities for six to ten months (as a precautionary measure after culling birds affected by the H5N1 virus),” Pé told Le Parisien.

As a result, the cost of a standard 180-gram jar of the controversial duck or goose liver pâté could rise by 10-25% over the festive period, according to one report.

Meanwhile, France has also produced its lowest grape harvest since the Second World War. While producers say it doesn’t mean wine will necessarily run out by Christmas, the effect on the wine supply will create a dearth for popular vintages. The poor harvest was a result of a mild March, followed by a return to winter-like conditions in April, which killed off the fruit in its early stages.

The widely-discussed butter shortage, named “crise de beurre” by the French, is also rumbling on, with negotiations over price unlikely to take place before the new year.

Butter production has fallen as global demand has risen, but French supermarkets and producers agree prices annually, meaning farmers are increasingly selling their limited supply to international buyers, who aren’t bound by such agreements.