Will Germany see a mustard shortage?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is resulting in supply issues for some everyday food items. With recent reports saying a mustard shortage looms in Germany, we looked into what you should know.

A woman puts mustard on her Bratwurst in Coburg, Bavaria.
A woman puts mustard on her Bratwurst in Coburg, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

Seeing footage and hearing from Ukrainians about the brutal Russian invasion has sparked collective shock and anger around the world.

And the war led by President Vladimir Putin is also having an indirect effect on everyday life for people outside Ukraine. It has, for instance, exasperated rising energy costs and consumer prices. 

Experts have also been warning about supply issues for items such as sunflower oil and flour of which Ukraine and Russia are important suppliers. 

But the worries over shortages have led some people in Germany to panic-buy and clear out shelves in supermarkets. 

Supermarkets have noticed an increased demand for things like cooking oils, and have introduced measures such as temporarily restricting sales to one or two bottles per customer.

Last week, The Federal Association of the German Food Trade (BVLH), urged people not to hoard and called for “solidarity”.

Now talk is turning to a possible mustard shortage. Is this really possible?

READ ALSO: ‘Show solidarity’: Germans urged not to panic-buy over shortage fears

Why would there be a mustard problem?

Mustard producers are worried about supply shortages of imported seeds. 

According to DPA, the shortage means that mustard could become significantly more expensive. But most industry experts say it’s too early to tell whether the condiment, which is a particular favourite of Germans, will become scarce.

READ ALSO: How prices in Germany will rise as the war in Ukraine continues

According to the food association Kulinaria, one of the most important suppliers of mustard seeds is Ukraine. If supplies fail to arrive as a result of the war during the year, mustard producers could face difficulties in the second half of the year and in 2023.

“It is not yet possible to precisely estimate the extent of the shortage,” said Kulinaria Managing Director Markus Weck.

The sowing of seeds for mustard normally takes place in the next two weeks, he said. But because of the war, the focus there is understandably on growing essential crops and not on growing food for export.

But even before the Russian military assault on Ukraine began, there were problems on the market for mustard seeds. Germany also buys seeds from Canada, but there have issues there with droughts there which last year resulted in about half the usual harvest.

However, there are still stocks stored up by many producers, said the association, which represents 130 medium-sized companies in the food industry.

“From the association’s point of view, the market for mustard in 2023 will be rather difficult, as we are currently unable to estimate how much mustard seed will be available,” Weck said.

READ ALSO: Consumer prices in Germany expected to rise further

He said individual traders may struggle as a result of the shortage. 

How important is mustard in Germany?

It is pretty popular – especially on a traditional Bratwurst. 

Germany imported a total of 38,320 tonnes of mustard seeds in 2020, of which 51.9 percent came from Russia, 27.6 percent from Ukraine and 10.2 percent from Canada. Four percent of the mustard seeds came from Estonia and 6.4 percent from other countries. Almost 81,000 tonnes of mustard worth around €167 million were produced in this country.

However, mustard consumption in this country has been declining. According to Kulinaria, mustard consumption per capita in Germany was around 1.18 kilograms in 2010. In 2020, it had fallen to 805 grams of mustard per capita consumption.

According to available data, about 20 companies with 20 or more employees produce mustard in Germany – around 80,769 tonnes in 2020, almost 9 percent less than the year before. Mustard accounted for almost 11 percent of the total sauces market, with tomato ketchup and mayonnaise each accounting for more than 30 percent of production volume.

A Bratwurst coated in mustard.

A Bratwurst coated in mustard. Photo:
picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Price hikes

As is the trend across many groceries in Germany (and beyond), experts predict severe price increases.

The Bavarian manufacturer Develey, which owns the brands Löwensenf, Bautz’ner and Reine de Dijon, among others, sources its mustard seed from Ukraine, Canada and Germany.

“Due to the bad harvest in Canada in 2021, the world market for mustard seed was already very tight,” the company said. However, there is currently no standstill in production of the condiment.

According to a spokeswoman, Nestlé’s subsidiary Thomy sources mustard seeds exclusively from Canada. As well as the poor harvest, there are considerable problems transporting the goods from there to Europe. “Price increases are currently to be expected across almost all categories, including mustard,” she said.

Fans of a sausage with mustard will likely not have to do without the condiment in future, but they will probably have to pay more for it.

“We will not run out of mustard,” said association manager Weck.

But Luise Händlmaier GmbH says it is already informing trading partners that mustard could become twice as expensive as before.

It’s mainly down to the cost explosion for raw materials, said managing director Franz Wunderlich. “And that will certainly only be the beginning.”

The current commodity crisis will continue to affect prices and scarce commodity availability for the next two years due to lower crop yields, he said.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.