Drought sends mustard production in steep decline

Mustard production projected by Statistics Canada shows a decline of almost 50 percent from a year ago.

However, Richard Marleau, chair of the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission, said the numbers could have been far worse.

Mustard is grown mainly in southern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta, two areas hit hardest by drought. That accounts for most of the steep production decline, Marleau said.

However, there are regions where farmers managed to turn things around and pull in a decent crop, he added.

“Had the heat persisted through the latter half of July, it would have exacerbated things, but the heat kind of backed off in the second half of July, which allowed the crops to fill,” he said.

A smaller crop this year and low carry over stocks could send mustard prices up. | File photo

Statistics Canada forecast Sask-atchewan’s mustard production at 90,800 tonnes this year, down from 162,300 tonnes in 2016, a decline of 44 percent. Saskatchewan produces about 70 percent of Canadian mustard.

Canadian mustard production is estimated to come in at 129,500 tonnes, down from 235,600 tonnes a year ago, which is a decline of 45 percent year-to-year.

Statistics Canada estimated Alberta production at 38,700 tonnes, a decline of 47 percent from 73,300 in 2016. The survey was carried out at the end of July.

Marleau, who farms near Aneroid, Sask., said that according to his rough calculations, mustard stocks-to-use ratio at the end of the 2017-18 crop year could drop to about 20 percent.

He said a common opinion in the trade was for a good supply of mustard carryover based on the spot bids, but this smaller new crop will likely be reflected in future bids. 

“But I imagine they (prices) will start creeping upwards,” he said, especially if the dryness persists into next year.

In addition to the drought in key mustard-growing areas, seeded acreage this spring was down 23 percent. 

“Forward contract prices weren’t that impressive this spring from a grower’s standpoint,” Marleau said. “The market signal there was (to) not expand production. That was pretty evident based upon the bids and the production contract prices.”

Statistics Canada did not break out mustard production by type, but Marleau said 80 percent is typically yellow mustard with the remainder split between brown and oriental with brown taking the larger share of that.

Marleau expressed concerns for next year because of low soil moisture reserves. While it is too early to write off 2018, he said 200 milli-metres will be needed in mustard growing areas next year if farmers are to see a production rebound.

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