CWB forecasts cold, dry conditions eating yields

Preliminary crop forecasts released Thursday by the Canadian Wheat Board project a western Canadian wheat, durum and barley crop of 29.7 million tonnes in the 2009 crop year, down almost 20 per cent from last year’s 36.7 million tonnes and significantly below the five-year average of 33.9 million tonnes.

The all-wheat yield estimate announced by the CWB, at 33.4 bushels per acre, is the lowest initial projection in seven years.

“Cold weather across the Prairies this spring has had a detrimental effect on planting and early crop development in most growing regions, said Bruce Burnett, CWB director of weather and market analysis, at the annual CWB grain industry briefing Thursday.

“In addition, soil moisture levels are dangerously low in parts of Alberta and western Saskatchewan, where dry conditions have persisted since last fall.”

While the western Prairies are abnormally dry, Manitoba has been excessively wet this spring, with seeding still incomplete. Without ideal growing conditions for the remainder of the crop year, below-average production is likely for Western Canada.

Wheat, durum and barley crops are currently about 10 days to two weeks behind normal development due to the cold weather. Production estimates have dropped significantly in the past two weeks from what had been average yield expectations.

“As cool weather delays crop emergence, the risk of reduced quality or frost damage this fall increases,” Burnett said.

Non-durum wheat production is expected to decrease to 16.4 million tonnes from 20 million tonnes in 2008, while durum is predicted to drop to 4.4 million tonnes from 5.5 million tonnes last year. The CWB expects barley production to decrease to 8.9 million tonnes from 11.2 million tonnes in 2008. Last year saw the largest western Canadian all-wheat crop since 1996.

Worldwide

The world wheat crop will be down significantly from last year’s record production of 682 million tonnes, particularly given a substantial drop in production in key U.S. winter wheat growing areas. Most key wheat exporting nations are experiencing production problems. Dry conditions have continued in Argentina, which is forecasted to have the lowest seeded area in 100 years. This is likely to result in the second consecutive year of record-low Argentine wheat production. The only major exporter expected to increase production is Australia, where timely recent rains have improved growing conditions after a multi-year drought.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week forecast world wheat production at 656 million tonnes. “Any further cuts to global production estimates would result in tighter world supplies, which could be price-supportive,” Burnett said.

However, in North Africa, which is an important market for western Canadian durum, abundant rainfall and near-ideal growing conditions have resulted in a very large durum crop, which will lower this region’s import demand, the CWB predicted.

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