Drought hits Prairie mustard farmers, causing price to skyrocket,
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.
While Americans eat a lot more yellow mustard on hotdogs, Europeans are big consumers of the brown variety.