Changes can be expected on supermarket shelves. The state on Tuesday, April 26 and for a period of up to six months, authorized manufacturers of margarine, chips and prepared sauces to replace sunflower oil without changing their packaging. A decision prompted by the difficulties in supplying this product. Where do these difficulties come from? What foods are affected by the recipe changes? What is sunflower oil replaced by? The world Make the point.
Why are there delivery problems?
This is one of the many consequences of the war in Ukraine: the country, which accounts for 50% of the world trade in sunflower oil, has been unable to export since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. Ukrainian ports are blocked and, according to Kiev, road and rail transport westward is only half a million tons of goods a month – ten times less than before the conflict.
For its part, Russia, which exports 28% of the world’s sunflower oil, has just introduced quotas for the sale of this product abroad. And in early April, Moscow raised its export duties by 20%.
Results: Sunflower oil is missing from supermarket shelves, consumers are rushing for precious bottles and prices are skyrocketing (sunflower oil now costs almost as much as olive oil).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced on April 8 that its vegetable oil price index had risen “by 23.2%, driven by the rise in sunflower oil prices”† Since sunflower oil is a commodity that is widely used by food producers, food prices are also mechanically pulled up.
Is there a risk of sunflower oil deficiency?
Empty shelves in French supermarkets are the result of a runaway effect and overstocking of sunflower oil. Consumers and restaurateurs have been inclined to cautious purchases in recent weeks, for fear of inflation on the one hand and scarcity on the other. This self-fulfilling fear has actually triggered a raid.
On Twitter, dozens of posts showed displays robbed and some have tried to solve the problem with lightnesswhich, for example, proposes a “5 liter bottle of sunflower oil against a [console] Switch Oled”.
However, there is no risk of a short-term deficit in the short term, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, the president of the strategic committee of the centers E. Leclerc, assured on BFM-TV on April 3, questioning the behavior of consumers: “For sunflower oil, our stocks run until June. Consumers are starting to overstock, they are the ones who keep the shelves from being restocked. “People are stocking up and that can now empty the shelves, but merchandise is coming again. Not necessarily all brands, but there will be products, don’t panic.On April 5, Dominique Schelcher, the boss of System U, insisted on Radio Classique.
After the summer, however, the shortage was felt. In late March, Mykola Solsky, Ukraine’s agriculture minister, estimated that the Russian invasion risked cutting the next grain crop in half. Ukrainians “will sow where possible”but only “50% to 75% of the areas” can be exploited, emphasized Mykola Solsky, who also indicated that many farmers “joined the army or the territorial defense”leading to a labor shortage. It will also be necessary to get the goods out of a country closed off from trade routes. Uncertainty could increase the temptation to buy precaution.
Which products are affected by the recipe changes?
To cope with this situation, food manufacturers will be able to replace sunflower oil for up to six months without changing their packaging. A few weeks ago, manufacturers had seized the opportunity of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to warn of supply tensions and to request permission to change their recipes.
Fries, chips, sauces, biscuits, baby jars, margarines, ready meals, breaded products, pasta, jam… Sunflower oil is an ingredient that is used in the composition of many foods. Sunflower is also present in the form of lecithin, an additive (e.g. in chocolates). According to Bercy, several hundred or even thousands of references could be the subject of these exemption requests.
What is sunflower oil replaced by?
On paper, there are plenty of edible oils that can serve as substitute ingredients for sunflower oil. That of, for example, rapeseed, soy or palm. But the demand is so great that manufacturers are already having to deal with a significant price increase. When it comes to palm oil, there is also the issue of environmental footprint. Using olive oil, which is much more expensive, turns out to be an extremely limited option. As for sesame, walnut, hazelnut, peanut or coconut oils, these are also expensive (their production is less important).
What will change for the consumer?
From April 26, manufacturers have six months to change the packaging of products whose recipe has been adjusted. According to Bercy, this is the time that is currently needed to print new packaging. Manufacturers must indicate on the packaging within two months that a recipe change has taken place (for example with a sticker). However, they are not required to specify the nature of this change.
However, if manufacturers add an allergenic product, this must be reported immediately. “Allergen addition cases to date concern only soy (via introduction of soy lecithin) and peanuts (via introduction of peanut oil)”, the Ministry of Economic Affairs specifies. The same applies if the packaging contains environmental claims that are no longer true, such as: “100% organic”† “GMO-free” True “without palm oil” for example.
All waived income changes will be posted on a site of the General Directorate for Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF), a department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. In the coming months, this service will also be responsible for monitoring compliance with government regulations.
What do consumer associations think?
Faced with requests for exemptions from food manufacturers, the consumer association Foodwatch had signaled the risk that the crisis could serve as an alibi for covert reformulations. She therefore insisted on the need for a “full transparency”† She responded Tuesday by saluting “the effort of transparency of the authorities”†
However, the Foodwatch association warned “on the puzzle of consumer access to information”, in the best case through stickers on the packaging, or the use of a QR code in shops that link to the DGCCRF site (excluding consumers who do not have a smartphone). Foodwatch states in a petition that the manufacturers of the affected products “make it as easy as possible to access information on the shelves and directly on the affected products”†
The French Association for the Prevention of Allergies, for its part, welcomed the care given to the information on allergenic products, as “essential to maintain consumer safety”†