Oats face numerous pre-harvest question marks

CNS Canada — Oat producers are playing the waiting game when it comes to one of the most important things for oat crops: quality.

“There’s always a concern about quality and you never know where that is going to be until harvest,” said Art Enns, president of the Prairie Oat Growers Association at Morris in Manitoba’s Red River Valley.

Reports in South Dakota, where weather has been hot and dry, say quality hasn’t been what millers hoped for, Enns said. So far, oat crops across the Prairies are looking to fare better than their neighbours to the south.

“I think it’s varied… but overall everyone is saying the crops are looking decent, despite all the rain we’ve had,” he said.

Seeded acreage for oats is down about 15-20 per cent from last year due to strong competition from pulse and lentil crops, Enns said. With the addition of wet weather, exactly how much of a yield producers will get is still up in the air.

“Are there going to be losses due to flooding and stuff like that? Yes… We don’t know exactly what the crop is going to yield,” he said.

Disease could also become an issue with the excess moisture and reports of fusarium showing up in some areas, he said. To what extent that will affect the crops also won’t be known until harvest.

Last year, oat crops had some severe problems with lodging affecting quality, but luckily crops so far this year haven’t encountered the same issues, Enns said.

“The general crops overall are not showing as much (lodging), especially in the Red River Valley,” he said. “Last year we saw it affect quality… so I think we’re a step ahead at this point anyways, but it’s not in the bin yet.”

Prices in the Red River Valley are on the low end, but still similar to last year’s prices, Enns said.

“I know last week they were offering $3 (per bushel) off the combine; you could have sold for $3.25 (per bushel) a little bit earlier,” he said.

“We know that the carryout is going to be a little bit lower than it normally is, so there could be some demand down the road, especially closer to springtime. Could that reflect on higher prices? That’s to be determined.”

— Erin DeBooy writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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