It is not a mustard factory but a hive as the employees are busy in all directions.
The switchboard is overwhelmed with calls, the requests are increasing, the promises too.
In the offices of the Alélor company in Mietesheim in the Bas-Rhin, it's a bit like the Gallic village where mustard is still produced, even if we remain very vigilant.
And for good reason.
With the global shortage of mustard seed, many producing companies, particularly in Burgundy, a historical basin of French mustard, have put their employees on technical unemployment.
And it shows.
You only have to walk through the empty shelves of supermarkets to understand it.
But how do the Alsatians do to continue their activity?
A trick of hell?
A magic potion or a secret deal?
Far from there.
The Alélor mustard maker, founded 149 years ago, also a manufacturer of horseradish and condiments, had the good idea to relaunch and rely on a local agricultural sector in 2008, with the help of the CCI Alsace.
That of the mustard seed, the white or yellow seed.
"First with one farmer, then five and today about fifteen, who only produce mustard seeds for us, on around 80 hectares", welcomes, without triumphalism, its director Alain Trautmann.
» A mild mustard, which may be reinforced with horseradish for certain ranges, made with white seeds, unlike Dijon mustard, which is stronger, but above all made from brown seeds.
A sweet mustard
A “brunette” market already affected last year by the drought which raged in Canada with “the consequence of a 50% drop in harvests, specifies Alain Trautmann.
Quantities have already been restricted since last summer.
Added to this gloomy context this year is the crisis in Ukraine and Russia, the second-largest producing countries.
Consequences, "the big industrialists and manufacturers of mustard have been stopped all over the world, since March 15, the brown seed for old-fashioned mustards, from Dijon, occupying 85% of the mustard market", counts Alain Trautman.
There are still brown seeds from the 2021 harvest in the silos in Ukraine, but this one is currently blocked.
A brown seed, however, cultivated twenty years ago in Burgundy.
But the difficulty is that it is a winter plant.
However, the period is too cold in Alsace to plant it serenely.
On the other hand, no problem for the white seed which is planted in April to be harvested in July.
“Each territory has respected its variety of seed.
Today, in normal times, the white seed covers 60% of our annual production.
For the remaining 40%, a few trucks sometimes arrive from Canada.
The rest is bought on the "spot market", however the price has been multiplied by 5. A tonne at 1,000 euros last year is now trading close to 5,000 euros.
And the price increases when you buy occasionally on the “spot markets”, by 1,000 euros per ton each month.
By flair again, the Alsatian company had signed a contract last February, so before the crisis in Ukraine and had managed to have an affordable price guaranteeing coverage until August.
Because despite the many requests, “Alélor's priority” is to continue to supply its historical customers.
“We don't want to put any customer out of it and try to serve in a nearby territory, that is to say Alsace and Lorraine, hence our name, Alélor.
But also some new requests from industry groups for old-fashioned, strong mustards.
While waiting for better days, and hoping for a good harvest this year, the Alsatian mustard maker continues to give priority to local production, and to diversify its range, such as the brand new 100% natural.
To also continue to ensure the sustainability of the company and its 20 employees, to make the producers of the region work even if it means paying them mustard seeds, as it has been doing since 2008 to support them, 25% more expensive.
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