A mustard seed shortage is driving up prices and could leave some store shelves with scant supply before the new harvest hits markets this fall, industry experts say.
France, the world’s biggest consumer of the popular condiment, is already facing shortages while other countries are seeing prices climb as last year’s mustard seed stocks are depleted.
The problem can be traced back to the Canadian Prairies, where the majority of the world’s mustard seeds are grown.
A drop in the number of acres planted last year in Saskatchewan and Alberta combined with a severe summer drought means crop yields are far lower than usual.
In Saskatchewan, for example, about 300,000 acres or roughly 120,000 hectares were seeded with mustard last year, a drop of about 25 per cent compared with the 10-year average of 400,000 acres (about 160,000 hectares), according to provincial data.
Weather a factor
Then dry, hot weather badly damaged crops.
“The heat that we got last July just absolutely devastated yields,” said Stuart Smyth, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics with the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
“Mustard seed yield was only 35 per cent of the 10-year average.”
Prices for the yellow spread have steadily increased since.
For example, a hundredweight of yellow mustard seeds, roughly 45 kilograms, cost more than $150 a week ago — triple the $50 price tag from last year, according to a Saskatchewan database of agricultural commodity prices.
Brown mustard seeds, used in Dijon-style mustard, cost $182.33 per hundredweight a week ago, compared with $45 last year.
Lack of seed availability
Yet for mustard makers, the high prices are only half the battle. Some are struggling to even find enough Canadian seeds to buy.
“I bought mustard seeds in the spring of this year from last year’s harvest … and I had to almost beg my supplier to sell it to me,” said Eric Giesbrecht, a chef and owner of Brassica Mustard.
“It was probably the last 2,000 pounds he had and he was worried he wouldn’t have enough to fill his other orders.”
The Calgary-based business owner ended up paying about 400 per cent more than usual — an astronomical cost increase he’s mostly had to absorb.
“Using Canadian mustard seeds is just part of the identity of my company, so importing seeds wasn’t an option,” Giesbrecht said.
Some mustard makers feel the squeeze
Kraft Heinz Co., which makes Heinz Yellow Mustard and the Dijon mustard brand Grey Poupon, said the shortage has only impacted the brown mustard seeds it uses in its Dijon variety.
The company said as soon as it identified a potential supply issue, it worked to find other sources of brown mustard seed in different parts of the world.
“We also worked to prioritize [products] in our Grey Poupon portfolio that we know are customer favourites to ensure we would avoid shortages of those key products,” the company said in an emailed statement.
No one from Dijon mustard maker Maille Canada, a subsidiary of Unilever, was available for comment.
McCormick & Co., Inc., maker of French’s mustard, said it’s not experiencing shortages of mustard seeds.
The company attributed its inventory position to its “resilient global supply chain and strong sourcing capabilities.”
Domestic processing can’t cut the mustard
Canadian grocers directed inquiries on mustard supply to the Retail Council of Canada.
Michelle Wasylyshen, spokesperson for the retail industry group, said Canadians should have no concerns about food availability though “there may be times when consumers will have to look for alternatives and substitutions.”
LISTEN | Why Canada’s mustard seed crop is facing a ‘perfect storm’ for shortages:
Quebec AM6:58Canada faces “perfect storm” of mustard seed shortages
Canada is the top producer of mustard seeds in the world. But over the past two years the crop has experienced major shortages. Experts say the drought out West as well as low inventory resulted in a “perfect storm”.
“In Canada, last year’s harvest for mustard was heavily impacted by drought and this affected production,” she said.
“We don’t manufacture a lot of mustard domestically, but rather provide the seed to other countries which then produce the actual condiment.”
Indeed, the shortage has underscored how little of the mustard seed crop grown in Canada stays here to be processed into a condiment.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.
“Our process sector needs help developing the expertise and capacity.”
Dijon shortage a larger issue in France
While so far Canadian stores appear to have ample supply, it may just be a matter of time before broader mustard market conditions hit retail here, he said.
“It takes a while before ingredient shortages work their way through the supply chain,” Charlebois said.
“It’s quite possible that we’ll run short of mustard but it may happen a little bit later in Canada.”
Unlike in France, where Dijon mustard is a kitchen staple almost as commonplace as salt and pepper, Canadians tend to only buy mustard once every six months or less and would likely be more amenable to substitutes, Charlebois said.
“We could actually see less supply at some point but it wouldn’t be a catastrophe and it would be short lived.”
Healthy fall harvest expected
Meanwhile, scientists warn climate change could lead to more frequent and severe droughts in the Prairies, a situation that could affect future crop yields.
But Smyth said drought management has improved dramatically in recent years, which will help maximize harvests.
This year so far, he said the growing season has been promising, boding well for a healthy harvest this fall.
In addition, the number of planted acres is up.
Saskatchewan farmers planted about 550,000 acres of mustard seed this year, or roughly 220,000 hectares, an increase of almost 40 per cent compared with the 10 year average, according to provincial data.
“If conditions hold here over the next four to six weeks, we should be in good shape,” Smyth said.
“Definitely by the time we have our Christmas hams rolled out we’ll have lots of Dijon for it.”
TTC riders in Toronto’s downtown core now have access to 5G service.
In a Monday media release, representatives for Rogers said customers of all major Canadian wireless companies can connect to 5G to talk, text, and stream on Toronto’s subway system.
Service extends to all stations and tunnels in the downtown U (between Bloor-Yonge and Spadina, as well as Dupont Station), as well as in 13 stations between Keele and Castle Frank, plus the tunnels between St. George and Yonge stations.
The announcement comes a day earlier than anticipated, as the federal deadline given to Rogers to implement the extended service for all mobile customers was originally slated for Tuesday.
Rogers customers have had 5G connection in the aforementioned stations and tunnels since August, a decision that sparked ire in the telecommunications space, particularly from rivals Telus and Bell.
“Our dedicated team of technologists designed and introduced an immediate solution that added capacity, so Bell and Telus could join the network,” Ron McKenzie, chief technology and information officer for Rogers, said.
“For over 10 years, subway riders have been without mobile phone services and the Rogers team is pleased to step up and make 5G a reality for all riders today.”
In a statement shared with CP24, representatives for Telus said, “we are pleased to launch service for all our customers in connected TTC subway tunnels and stations. Now, TELUS customers can browse the Internet, talk and text, staying connected and safe on Toronto transit. We’ll be working hard to expand the number of stations and tunnels covered in the coming months.”
“We would like to thank Minister Champagne for his leadership in ensuring that all wireless carriers have the ability to serve their customers in Toronto’s subway system, and that Rogers can no longer delay the deployment of wireless service for all TTC riders regardless of their choice of carrier,” representatives for Bell shared in an afternoon statement.
“Bell looks forward to working collaboratively with our partners to build out the remainder of the TTC’s wireless network.”
Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow responded to today’s news in a tweet.
“Happy to hear that all 3 major telecoms have unrolled service to downtown stations,” she wrote.
“The work continues to expand service to the rest of the TTC subway system. François-Philippe Champagne and I will work to make sure it happens quickly.”
CP24 and CTV News Toronto are owned by Bell Media.
TORONTO — A week after a system crash blacked out much of the services offered by Laurentian Bank (TSX:LB), the financial institution announced on Monday the departures of president and CEO Rania Llewellyn and board of directors chair Michael Mueller.
The bank said Monday that Eric Provost, most recently head of personal and commercial banking, has moved into the role of president and chief executive with immediate effect.
Provost replaces Llewellyn, who became the first woman to lead a major Canadian bank when she took on the role three years ago.
Montreal-based Laurentian also said director Michael Boychuk has been appointed chair of its board of directors, replacing Mueller, who resigned from the board.
The bank said on Monday that it had restored most services, but that access might still be slow or intermittent because of the number of people trying to access services. It said it was also still working to restore some functions.
In a letter to customers, Provost said the bank would be reversing monthly service fees for September, and opening some branches on Monday despite the statutory federal holiday as the bank tries to resolve the issues.
“We understand how precious your trust is, and we recognize that we have not delivered on it,” said Provost in the letter.
“My sincerest apologies for the inconvenience this outage may have caused you, your family, and your company.”
The bank said it would also work with clients who may have missed payments because of the outage, including help if someone’s credit score was affected because they couldn’t access their money.
For a while, Sam Bankman-Fried tried to convince politicians and the public that he was the next J.P. Morgan. Now, he has to convince a jury that he wasn’t, in reality, the next Bernie Madoff.
The trial of Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed cryptocurrency brokerage FTX, will begin Tuesday with jury selection. Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are expected to lay out a case against Bankman-Fried that alleges he stole billions of dollars in FTX customer deposits and used the money to fund his hedge fund, buy real estate, and make millions of dollars of illegal campaign donations to Democrats and Republicans in an attempt to buy influence over cryptocurrency regulation in Washington.
While the case will involve the complicated world of cryptocurrencies, prosecutors are expected to try to boil it down to the simplest of terms for jurors: Bankman-Fried took money from customers and used it in ways he wasn’t supposed to.
“Prosecutors are going to say, ‘look at where the money went and how it was spent,'” said Michael Zweiback, co-founder of the law firm Zweiback, Fiset & Zalduendo LLP, and a former federal prosecutor. “This case is less about the complicated investments and all about garden-variety fraud.”
From humble beginnings to having billions on paper
Before FTX collapsed and filed for bankruptcy last November, Bankman-Fried was one of the most powerful people in the cryptocurrency industry. “SBF” had an estimated net worth of $32 billion US last year, at least on paper. He interacted with former presidents, politicians on both sides of the aisle, celebrities, and CEOs. When smaller crypto firms started imploding in early 2022, Bankman-Fried told the public he would help prop up the market, prompting the comparisons with J.P. Morgan.
The 31-year-old Bankman-Fried founded FTX in 2019, and it grew rapidly. The son of Stanford University professors, who was known to play the video game League of Legends during meetings, Bankman-Fried attracted investments from the highest echelons of Silicon Valley. FTX quickly became the second-largest crypto brokerage behind Binance.
Bankman-Fried and his inner circle of executives ran their then-growing crypto empire from The Bahamas, out of the luxury apartment complex Albany, where celebrities like Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake have vacation homes.
FTX had effectively two lines of business: a brokerage where customers could deposit, buy, and sell cryptocurrency assets on the FTX platform, and an affiliated hedge fund known as Alameda Research, which took highly speculative positions in various cryptocurrency investments.
As Alameda started to pile up losses during last year’s cryptocurrency market declines, prosecutors allege Bankman-Fried directed funds to be moved from FTX’s customer accounts to Alameda to plug holes in the hedge fund’s balance sheet.
The U.S. government has charged Samuel Bankman-Fried, the founder of now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with a host of financial crimes after being arrested in the Bahamas. He faces decades in prison if convicted.
The house of cards that Bankman and his lieutenants built came crashing down in early November, when reports surfaced about the condition of Alameda’s balance sheet. Spooked investors, who had already seen several crypto firms collapse during the year, quickly pulled their money out of FTX and within days the firm was bankrupt.
John Ray III, the restructuring expert who was tasked with cleaning up FTX in bankruptcy, described the conditions inside of FTX as worse than Enron, long considered the benchmark for corporate malfeasance in popular culture.
Bankman-Fried is expected come face-to-face with his former lieutenants at FTX for the first time since its collapse.
Several of them have agreed to plead guilty to lesser crimes in exchange for testifying against him. This includes Caroline Ellison, who was the CEO of Alameda and Bankman-Fried’s off-and-on girlfriend, as well as FTX co-founder Gary Wang.
Ryan Salame, another top executive at FTX, pleaded guilty on Sept. 7 to making illegal campaign contributions to Republicans on behalf of Bankman-Fried, who was publicly making contributions to Democrats. It is not known whether Salame will testify against Bankman-Fried.
Ellison is expected to be the prosecution’s central witness. Prosecutors are likely to count on her to demonstrate that the collapse of FTX was not due to a few mistakes, as Bankman-Fried alleges, but to fraud. She has previously said in a statement through her lawyers that she knew funnelling FTX customers’ money into Alameda was wrong.
“I expect the government is going to be able to show that Bankman-Fried knew what he was doing was wrong, and here are the people in the room who can corroborate that story,” said Christine Adams, a former federal prosecutor and a partner at Adams, Duerk & Kamenstein.
The defence is expected to argue that while Bankman-Fried made some mistakes, the mistakes do not amount to fraud and FTX was just the latest casualty in the broad collapse of the cryptocurrency market last year. Until he had his computer privileges taken away by the presiding judge in the case, Bankman-Fried himself spent months reaching out to reporters and posting on social media to explain his actions.
Before his bail was revoked, Bankman-Fried had been permitted to live with his parents in their Palo Alto, Calif., home with strict rules limiting his access to electronic devices. Bankman-Fried was ordered to be jailed after Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said there was probable cause to believe he was trying to tamper with potential witnesses, including Ellison, in the case.
Crypto winter underway
Broadly, the crypto industry has still not recovered since FTX’s collapse. The prices of Ethereum and Bitcoin, the two most widely used cryptocurrencies, are still down two-thirds from where they were a year ago and the volume of trading in crypto is half what it was. The market for NFTs, artificially scarce digital objects meant to create unique digital versions of memorabilia or photographs, has all but evaporated. Roughly 3,000 NFTs trade hands daily now, compared to more than 40,000 a day a year ago, according to NonFungible.com.
Even Bankman-Fried’s former competitors are facing their own legal scrutiny. This summer the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against Binance and its founder Changpeng Zhao similar to the allegations against FTX, including commingling of customer funds with the firm’s investments. Coinbase, the publicly traded crypto exchange, has also been charged by the SEC with securities violations.