DIJON, France (AFP) — A French monastery in the heart of Burgundy launched an emergency online sale Friday to get rid of thousands of its prized artisanal cheeses, which are languishing in its cellars as Covid-19 keeps buyers away.
The Citeaux abbey just south of Dijon, birthplace of the Cistercian Catholic order, usually sells its raw-milk, semi-soft discs only to restaurants or visitors who make the trek to its on-site shop.
But a drop in demand since the coronavirus crisis erupted last year has left the abbey's 19 Trappist monks with 4,000 cheeses too many -- the equivalent of 2.8 tons.
"We tried explaining to our 75 cows that they needed to produce less milk but they don't seem to have understood," brother Jean-Claude, in charge of marketing at the monastery founded in 1098, told AFP.
"Our sales are down nearly 50 percent," he said, with French restaurants still closed since October 30 as authorities try to curb a third wave of cases. "We need to clear out our stock."
It's a sin for fans of a cheese made by the monks since 1925, which won the silver medal at last year's international food and drink competition in Lyon, a bastion of France's culinary heritage.
The monks teamed with the internet start-up Divine Box, which sells products made by abbeys in France and elsewhere, with a goal of selling at least a ton of cheese by Tuesday.
The minimum order is two wheels at 23 euros ($27) each, plus shipping.
"We're going to make it," Jean-Claude said, with more than 700 kilograms already ordered according to the site.
© Agence France-Presse
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