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France’s butter shortage is “worst in the west”

The west of France has been worst affected by the country’s butter shortage, but the south less so, a new analysis of the situation has suggested.

A new statement from the French Association of Milk Processing (Association de la transformation laitière française (ATLA)) explained: “The shortage is without doubt worst in the west, especially in Brittany - which is a big butter consumer - compared to the south of France”, reported French newspaper Le Figaro.

The price of butter has been rising in recent months, and packs of butter have become more difficult to find in supermarkets.

Many boulangeries have raised their prices thanks to the large quantity of butter in their products, and figures from the Fédération des Entreprises de la Boulangerie said the bulk price for butter had risen from €2,500/tonne in April 2016 to €4,500/tonne by September this year.

Some figures put the global price rise as high as €8,000/tonne, blaming a growing rise in demand for butter in Asia, and even America, which has seen increased sales thanks to new diet advice suggesting it is not as fattening as previously thought.

In France, producers are now in conflict with retailers, as large supermarkets refuse to buy the butter at such high prices, with producers in turn deciding to ration their supplies to the large supermarkets as a result, and concentrate on foreign markets.

In many cases, milk producers have simply stopped delivering to supermarkets who question the price hike.

And yet, this week, Stéphane Travert, French minister for Agriculture and Food, admitted that the situation was unprecedented but sought to play down the “shortage” polemic, and said he was against any conflict between producers and distributors.

“There is not really a ‘shortage’ to speak of,” he said, on radio RTL yesterday. “It is more of a ‘fear of shortage’ than an actual ‘shortage’.”

He warned consumers not to change their buying habits, as a big change in consumption or a rush of people buying butter could precipitate more of a problem than otherwise.

Indeed, a study by consumer insight researchers Nielsen - released last weekend - showed that a rush on people buying butter had helped worsen the situation, and that many of the shortages in butter in big supermarkets were less to do with the availability of butter, and more due to a 19% spike in consumer demand (compared to the same time period last year).

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