DI­JON VU

Drought hits Prairie mus­tard farm­ers, caus­ing price to sky­rocket,

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - JEN SKERRITT BLOOMBERG

Food­ies be­ware: The tiny brown seeds used to make high-end Di­jon mus­tard are in short sup­ply and get­ting more ex­pen­sive.

Canada, the world’s big­gest grower, has been rav­aged by drought in the south­ern Prairies, cut­ting the har­vest of all mus­tard-crop va­ri­eties by half to the small­est in 11 years.

Among the hard­est hit are brown mus­tard seeds, boost­ing the in­gre­di­ent cost of the spicy condi­ment favoured by chefs as well as shop­pers of brands such as Grey Poupon or Maille Di­jon Orig­i­nale.

While Amer­i­cans eat a lot more yel­low mus­tard on ball­park hot­dogs or mixed into salad dress­ings, Euro­pean coun­tries are big con­sumers of the brown va­ri­ety. Tighter sup­plies of seeds from Canada — also the world’s big­gest mus­tard-seed ex­porter — could hurt food mak­ers in the U.S., the top buyer, as well as ma­jor im­porters in­clud­ing Bel­gium, France, Ja­pan and Sene­gal.

“There is no sub­sti­tute for brown mus­tard in mak­ing Di­jon,” said Wal­ter Dyck, man­ager of the mus­tard­seed di­vi­sion at Wis­con­sin-based Olds Prod­ucts Co., the sec­ond­largest man­u­fac­turer in North Amer­ica.

Some south­ern parts of Saskatchewan and Al­berta got less than 60 per cent of nor­mal rain­fall since the start of the grow­ing sea­son. Farm­ers — in­clud­ing those in neighbouring North Dakota — en­dured a “very dry and very hot” grow­ing sea­son that led to a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in crop yields af­ter the har­vest be­gan in Au­gust, Olds Prod­ucts said in a re­port.

Pro­duc­tion of all va­ri­eties of Cana­dian mus­tard seed tum­bled to 114,900 met­ric tons this sea­son from 235,600 tons in 2016, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by Sta­tis­tics Canada.

Al­ready, the price of brown mus­tard seed has risen by a third to 39 cents (U.S.) a pound, up from 29 cents a year ear­lier and the high­est since 2015, ac­cord­ing to data col­lected by Stat Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Ltd.

Prices could still go higher. Plant­ing of all va­ri­eties fell about 28 per cent to 154,000 hectares this year from 2016, Sta­tis­tics Canada data show. The bulk of the crop is the com­mon yel­low mus­tard, while the rest are mostly brown and ori­en­tal seeds.

Canada ex­ported about $124 mil­lion of all mus­tard seeds last year. Most of the ship­ments to the U.S. are yel­low mus­tard while Euro­pean buy­ers im­port mostly the brown seeds. Between Au­gust 2016 and July 2017, Canada shipped 6,900 tons of mus­tard to Bel­gium, up 15 per cent from a year ear­lier, Cana­dian Grain Com­mis­sion data show.

DREAMSTIME

While Amer­i­cans eat a lot more yel­low mus­tard on hot­dogs, Euro­peans are big con­sumers of the brown va­ri­ety.

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