Risk Center

Mustard shortage messes up big grilling weekend

by Jon Davis | July 1, 2022

Severe drought in northern Mexico and the Southwest U.S. has devastated the red jalapeno crop and resulted in severe shortages of Sriracha. A similar story is now playing out with another condiment – mustard. The issue is a lack of mustard seed which is the core ingredient of the product. Severe drought for the world’s biggest producer of mustard seed last year started a sequence of events in the mustard supply chain that is resulting in a shortage of mustard at an inopportune time – the heart of the northern hemisphere’s summer grilling season.

Canada is the world’s largest producer of mustard seed with most of the production in the southern portion of the Canadian Prairies – southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan. The growing season is during the summer – June through August – and last year’s harvest was devastated by severe drought.

Figure 1 portrays the percentage of normal rainfall during last year’s growing season – June through August 2021. The core of the mustard seed growing area is highlighted on the map. Rainfall in southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan was under 50% of normal with many areas receiving less than 25% of normal rainfall – a quarter of what the region would normally receive during the summer!

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Figure 1: Percent of normal rainfall: June – August 2021; Source – Everstream Analytics.

The Canadian drought, and record heat associated with it, had a catastrophic effect on all agricultural products and livestock in this area. Wheat, barley, sunflowers, rye, hops, and canola production were severely curtailed last year, and Canada is a major global producer of these commodities. Historically the 2021 drought in the Canadian prairies was one of the most severe in recorded history. Across the border, the Northern Plains (Dakotas and Montana) and the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) were also hurt by the drought.

During the past four months, additional large producers of mustard seed have added to the problem. France, the largest producer of mustard seed in Europe, had an unusually cold and at times, wet spring which negatively impacted production and quality of the crop during the harvest. Ukraine and Russia are also producers of mustard seed, and the war there has halted the flow of mustard seed to other parts of the world.

The yellow condiment has had a confluence of events during the past year that impacted production and shrank the supply. Since so many of the top producing areas of mustard seed have had issues (Canada, France, Ukraine, and Russia), the situation will not be resolved anytime soon. Suffice it to say, for those lovers of the condiment, the situation is problematic, and it is not “cutting the mustard.”

Learn how else climate change is affecting the global supply chain.

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