Mustard sales remain hot despite lack of stadium hotdogs

Mustard movement has been good despite a global pandemic, says an industry official.

“COVID hasn’t really effected anything other than allowing some farmers to move their product a little bit quicker,” said Scott Cunningham, manager of Canadian operations for Schluter & Maack.

Orders increased sharply during the first five to six weeks of the pandemic.

“Guys were trying to get stuff into their factories, processed and probably get ahead of the game,” he said.

That heightened activity led to quicker than normal delivery on current crop contracts.

“Yellow has probably been the one that has seen the biggest draw down on stocks, which is good because it’s usually 50 percent of what’s planted,” said Cunningham.

Kevin Dick, president of AC Trading, hasn’t experienced the same kind of temporary sales surge.

“I would say when COVID hit mustard had the least impact of any of the commodities that I handle,” he said.

The bigger concern for him is the supply side of the market. Analysts at CropSphere in January were anticipating 430,000 acres but Statistics Canada thinks it is closer to 400,000 acres.

Dick said there is “very little” carryout of all three types of mustard so any production problems could have big consequences.

“If we don’t have a good yield this summer there could definitely be some firmness in the market,” he said.

Cunningham doesn’t anticipate that happening. He said many farmers in Saskatchewan seeded into the best soil moisture reserves in four years.

Dick also noted that Alberta’s mustard farmers are experiencing better growing conditions than last year.

Cunningham said the COVID-based demand has slowed and he expects it to “tail off” heading into the summer months. There is no new spot business happening.

Baseball park sales of mustard could be slow this year due to COVID-19 restrictions but that business has already occurred. Companies that supply the parks do their buying from January through March. Any impact from reduced demand from sporting events and concerts won’t be felt until 2021-22.

In the meantime, mustard growers should be all right for the upcoming 2020-21 crop year.

“As long as they got it contracted they should get it moved, should get some cashflow,” he said.

Major League Baseball recently announced there will be a 60-game season in 2020 but Dick doubts there will be any fans allowed in the stands. 

He isn’t overly concerned about that.

“I’ve never been a huge believer that the baseball season has a significant impact on demand, but there is a bit of an impact,” he said.

Cunningham said yellow and brown mustard movement has been good but that is not the case for oriental mustard.

Dave Macfarlane, president of Sakai Spice, a Japanese-owned processor in Lethbridge, Alta., that mills oriental and yellow mustard into flour for customers in Asia, said there was a little COVID-19 dip in sales but nothing dramatic.

In fact, Asian demand has been pretty stable, as it always is.

“The customers we deal with at least are so predictable. I can pretty much tell you two years from now what they’re going to take,” said Macfarlane.

“Generally speaking, nothing ever changes and nothing is changing.”

The Black Sea region is always the big wildcard in mustard markets and this year it is more unpredictable than ever.

Cunningham has a coworker from Ukraine who usually travels to the region to provide an on-the-ground crop report but he can’t travel this year due to COVID restrictions. And news out of the Black Sea has been even more scant than usual.

Dick has given up on trying to gather information on the region. His best gauge of Black Sea production is how many calls he is getting from his European customers and right now he isn’t getting any.

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