When a niche crop like mustard sees a 30 percent increase in acreage, it can be enough to keep prices tamped down.
For 2018, Canadian mustard growers seeded 503,800 acres, according to Statistics Canada, and the trade is no hurry to make deals. Growers seeded 385,000 acres in 2017.
“The trade is not feeling any aggressive need to do anything on mustard right now,” said Mike Jubinville of ProFarmer Canada, which is owned by Glacier FarmMedia
But there is hope for higher pricing if key growing areas experience production problems.
“It can swing pretty wildly,” he said.
Brown mustard gained more acreage than yellow or orientals and accounts for about 172,000 acres of the total mustard seeded acreage. That compares to 80,000 acres in 2017, as growers chased higher prices offered last year, said Jubinville. That’s a 115 percent increase year over year.
Chuck Penner on the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission website, posted similar numbers and estimated the year-over-year brown mustard acreage increase at 136 per cent.
Kevin Hursh, executive director of the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission, said brown is where the price swings could be felt deepest. He said he bought contracts last November for 38 cents per pound and was told last week by the same company that if he wanted to contract more, it would be at 32 cents, and that price likely would fall further as harvest approached.
However, he said the crop is so variable this year, especially in the key brown mustard areas of southwest and south-central Saskatchewan that he is not discounting anything.
“I think it is tough to get a handle on volume,” he said, adding that he expected that average yields may not be improved from last year’s moisture-deprived growing season.
Jubinville said new crop Alberta mustard is looking good, but mustard areas of Saskatchewan have been hit with hot, dry weather and the crop is patchy.
As well, drought and heat issues in Europe may cut into production there, especially in eastern bloc countries. He said mustard has not been mentioned in production reports out of Europe because it is such a small crop, but he said mustard must be getting hit too.
“Those things could yield themselves yet to better pricing opportunities than we’re seeing in this current market.”
Prices for old crop yellow mustard are currently at 33 to 36 cents per pound, and new crop prices are around 34 cents per lb. That’s down from around 40 cents last fall.
Brown mustard prices are currently around 35 cents per lb. for old crop and 32 cents for new crop, although old crop browns are virtually sold out, Jubinville said.
StatsCan’s first yield estimates are expected out in August and that will provide a clearer picture of the new crop.
Jubinville said farmers who want to market mustard right off the combine this harvest, despite the lower prices, may need to sign contracts soon or delivery spots may be filled.
Hursh said that’s possible, but it’s also possible that buyers will take from the open market first before accepting contracted production, if there are deals to be had.
Regardless, Jubinville said, it’s probably better to hold off.
“For a lot of guys, mustard is just a small part of the overall crop mix, so they can be patient with marketing.”