Mustard prices are hotting up, as growers increasingly turn away from planting mustard seed in favour of other crops.

Until 2011, the global planted area and volume for mustard seed had increased fairly steadily for about a decade, but now mustard seed supplies are tightening up.

The planted area in Canada - the world’s largest producer of mustard seeds, which accounts for about one third of global supply - is expected to have decreased by a third this year, as growers have sought to take advantage of strong demand for biofuel by planting more rapeseed instead of mustard seed. As a result, prices for some Canadian mustard seeds have already soared by nearly 40% - to over £500/tonne - over the past year and are now almost 75% higher than in mid-2010.

Commodity prices 22 September 2012

Plastics continue to be hit by higher crude oil and feedstock prices as well as some plant outages. HDPE prices have risen by 23.2% to £1,131/tonne over the past month (although they remain flat on last year), with LDPE film up 22.1% month-on-month and 10.5% year-on-year.

Weather concerns and delayed or smaller harvests around the world mean UK feed wheat now stands at £206/tonne - nearly 20% higher than this time last year and up 6.9% on last month.

Meanwhile, demand for coconut oil has remained largely sluggish, leaving prices to linger just under the £600/tonne mark, down 4.5% over the past month and down nearly 30% on last year’s prices.

Mustard seeds are also traded on the Indian commodity exchange (NCDEX), and a shortage in India - as a result of this year’s delayed and weak monsoon - has helped drive up prices even further. Demand for mustard seed in India typically outstrips local supply, so India tends to import it. A low domestic crop there this year and subsequent higher demand for imports could increase world prices even further.

The picture is looking better in Europe and the US, where quality and quantity are reported to be good, but with global demand expected to be firm, these good harvests are unlikely to be enough to offset problems in Canada and India.

If mustard seed prices continue to go up, it’s not just the condiment manufacturers that would be hit. Mustard flour is frequently used to help flavour processed meats and is an excellent emulsifying agent and stabiliser, while mustard seed residue is used as a useful protein meal in animal feed.