High prices for haute cuisine in France this Christmas

PARIS (REUTERS) - It's enough to leave many people salivating.

Oysters, lobsters and truffles are just some of the many luxury foods on sale at Rungis, south of Paris.

The lead-up to Christmas is a crucial time for the giant fresh food wholesale market, which is the size of Monaco.

"There are huge economic implications. The Christmas sales will enable the business to hold up for an entire year. When you go wrong at Christmas, you mess up the whole year," said Philippe Clemente, a seafood producer who specialises in prawns.

This year, prices are up after a turbulent year for agriculture.

There were butter shortages in supermarkets, and the cost of foie gras - a pate made from duck and goose liver - is 30 per cent higher than last year.

 

"Bird flu especially affected foie gras. It hit supplies, but you know sometimes a crisis helps to put things back in order, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It will reset standards because foie gras was being over produced and now I think the quality will become important again," said Bruno Courion, a poultry producer.

Some think foie gras could be in short supply for another two years.

The price of truffles could also be hard to swallow.

Thanks to a drought in southern France - black truffles cost 1,400 euros (S$2,230) per kilo, and white ones a whopping 7,000 euros.

"Truffles on a Christmas table are very important. You put a bit of fresh truffle on foie gras, you eat it with scallops, I've even eaten hot oysters with truffles and it's delicious. And then there is cheese with truffles, cheese producers are preparing truffle brie for the new year celebrations," said Frederic Masse, head of Maison Masse.

At least there's no need to shell out more for scallops after a record catch along the north west coast of France, and there are no supply problems for salmon or oysters either - that traditional aphrodisiac goes down well on any special occasion.