Shortage of sunflower oil imported from Ukraine: “In 40 years of business, I have never seen such a crisis” says a pastry manufacturer from the Jura

Sunflower oil, used to make pie dough from the Céréalia group factory in Rochefort-sur-Nenon, is usually 80% imported from Ukraine. As a result of the war, the factory had to reorganize to overcome this shortage of raw materials.

“I have been doing this job for 40 years, I have never seen a crisis of such magnitude”: pie doughs pass on the production line of this factory in the Jura, but sunflower oil, a major ingredient imported from Ukraine, will be lacking in two weeks.

A few kilometers from Dole, in the industrial zone of Rochefort-sur-Nenon, 700,000 bases of pizzas or pies, puff pastry, broken or shortbread, leave the factory of the bakery dough manufacturer Cérélia, a group in the sector which has factories in Europe, the United States and Canada.
In a deafening mechanical crash, each of the eight production lines delivers 80 doughs per minute, for which the manufacturer largely uses sunflower oil, “80% imported from Ukraine”. For the moment, “there is no plan to reduce activity”, says the president of CereliaGuillaume Réveilhac, blue blouse and charlotte on the hair.

In the storage room at 14 degrees, bricks of solid fats are packed in colored bags to differentiate between rapeseed and palm oil. The green pile – that of the sunflower – pales in comparison.

“In two weeks, there won’t be any left at all”, says Chen-Liang Qian, the factory manager, “and we will have switched completely to rapeseed“. If there are still oils available on the market, they are now being traded at exorbitant prices and this is what could ultimately affect production, company officials fear.

Despite everything, the factory continues to run. Like every day, the kneader, a mixture of water and wheat flour, settles on the treadmill and envelops a solid layer of fat. This skilful mixture, flattened by a kind of rolling pin then folded into 54 layers, will give its famous texture to the puff pastry.

The gestures are precise, the usual rhythm, but in the eyes of the workers, concern is on the surface. The boss himself confesses: in “40 years” of business, he has “never seen that”.

Ultimately, the pie crusts are wrapped and cooled to 3 degrees. Those of the Croustipâte range, the Cérélia brand, are made from butter and therefore escape the shortage of sunflower oil.

Those of distributor brands, which are marketed under the Casino, Aldi or Monoprix labels, depend 100% on vegetable oil blends, where the share of sunflower continues to decline.

And there is another problem: How to inform the consumer of the modification of the preparations? Now pasta includes more palm or rapeseed oil, when the labels are already printed – and paper and cardboard are themselves suffering from inflation?
“The DGCCRF (Repression of fraud) is giving us flexibility to simply inform on the packaging that these mixtures of vegetable fats are subject to change”, explains Guillaume Réveilhac.

Another source of concern, the concern of some of its 168 employees who drive more than an hour to get to the factory, deep in the Doubs valley. “The energy bill for our employees took 80 to 120 euros per month. Some say to me: + How am I going to fill up to go to work? +”, he says.

The boss of Cérélia estimates at 60% the increase in its variable costs, by combining the increase in raw materials, energy and transport for the Jura factory. He would like to be able to sell his pasta at a higher price to large retailers, but he is bound by contracts signed annually, and the reopening of negotiations with supermarkets is not guaranteed.
“It will take a 30% pass-through on the price to customers”, he calculates. “It’s simple: if the supermarkets do not increase their purchase prices, we risk not being able to deliver. In this case, the factory stops”.

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Shortage of sunflower oil imported from Ukraine: “In 40 years of business, I have never seen such a crisis” says a pastry manufacturer from the Jura