Late Canadian mustard crop facing quality downgrades

MarketsFarm — An early blast of snow and cold across the Prairies has delayed harvest operations for a mustard crop already running behind normal, with quality downgrades expected for any mustard still in the field.

“It has to be absolutely flattened,” said mustard buyer Walter Dyck of Olds Products at Lethbridge on the effect of the recent snow on the mustard crop.

He estimated about 50 per cent of the country’s mustard crop was still unharvested ahead of the snow that hit southern Alberta and Saskatchewan over the last weekend of September, as a cool and damp September had already caused delays.

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“Everything just combined to give us a late harvest, and that has been prolonged,” he said.

“There’s a significant amount that’s out there, and there are definitely concerns about the quality,” Dyck said, adding that the moisture was causing sprouting — a situation not seen in the mustard market for many years.

However, “we had enough that came off early, and there are good stories for this year’s crop as well,” said Dyck.

“There’s no doubt there will be some blending,” he said of the lower-quality mustard likely to come. In addition to the better mustard that came off earlier in the year, he said there was also a good carryover of yellow mustard from 2018.

The likelihood of lost yields and quality downgrades has not yet shown itself in the cash market, with a large portion of the country’s mustard grown under contract.

Yellow mustard is currently priced around 36-37 cents per bushel, while brown mustard bids top out at 30 cents, according to Prairie Ag Hotwire data.

In addition to the latest harvest problems, mustard acres were also lower to begin with this year. As a result, “signals are telling me that we’ll see spot prices climb off their lows and want to move higher,” said Dyck. “The big question is just getting it off.”

StatsCan currently estimates Canadian mustard production for 2019 at 141,200 tonnes, which would be down from 173,600 grown the previous year.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin reports for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.

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