[6 November/The Economist]

France is in the middle of the worst butter shortage since the second world war. Chefs around the country are lamenting the soaring costs, as butter holds a vital position in French cuisine. Two changes explain the squeeze. In 2015 the European Union ended a quota system for milk-producers. Suppliers were hit by low prices and many small producers gave up production. More recently, international demand for butter has also soared. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations reported a 27 percent increase in its dairy-price index in September. Unfortunately, the local retail market in France is less competitive than most. Monopolistic power means that suppliers face fixed prices, often too tough a bargain to swallow. As a result, French farmers are preferentially exporting butter.