Traders react to StatsCan estimates

Canadian farmers intend to plant less canola in 2009/10 compared to the previous year, but more spring wheat and barley, according to Statistics Canada’s planting intentions report released April 24. Market participants saw the shift in intentions as a sign that cost of production would be a major consideration for producers this year.

StatsCan forecast all-wheat acres in the country at 25.161 million acres, which would compare with 25.009 million in 2008/09. Of that total, spring wheat plantings were expected to be up by nearly a million acres, coming in at 17.328 million acres. Durum was forecast to be slightly down on the year, at 5.730 million acres which compares with 6.030 million the previous year. Canadian farmers planted 2.103 million winter wheat acres this past fall, a nearly 20 per cent decline on the year, reported StatsCan.

“Despite some of the delays in North Dakota and Minnesota, it looks like Canada will have a very good spring wheat crop,” said Jerry Klassen, a Winnipeg-based trader and market analyst. He thought the larger Canadian spring wheat acres would temper some of the bullish enthusiasm in the U.S. spring wheat market.
Meanwhile, canola was forecast at 14.990 million acres, which would be down from 16.160 million from the previous year. Average market expectations had been for a slight increase in canola plantings, and the StatsCan number came as somewhat of a surprise to the market.

Mike Jubinville, of ProFarmer Canada, said that given the market circumstances over the past month canola acres will likely end up higher, but still won’t be as large as last year. With the lower canola acres, he said the supply situation for canola could start to look tight going farther out.

Barley was also slightly surprising, coming in slightly higher on the year at 9.476 million acres, as most market participants had expected to see a decline from the 9.357 million acres planted in 2008/09.

“For rotation, or whatever other reasons, it looks like the canola area didn’t maintain itself this year, and barley and spring wheat benefited from that,” said Bruce Burnett, director of the Canadian Wheat Board’s weather and crop surveillance department. Overall, he said the report was showing more cereals and less oilseeds than had been expected.

However, Burnett added that the recent strength in the oilseeds have happened since the survey was taken, which could influence seeding ideas. The flooding in southern Manitoba also may not have been reflected in this report, which could see acreage shifts after producers actually get on the field.

“It looks like the farmer is focusing on cost of production here,” said Klassen. Given the low returns per acre he thought the higher barley number was somewhat surprising. However, if producers want to keep their costs down, barley is a cheaper crop to grow compared to canola.

With western Canadian farmers already thought to be holding onto large barley supplies, Klassen thought the large barley acres could lead to some feed barley exports from the country in the upcoming crop year. Going forward, he thought any changes in acreage intentions would likely see decreases in barley and increases in canola.

Oats, down nine per cent on the year to 3.955 million acres, were also in line with expectations. Ken Ball, a broker with Union Securities, noted that the oats market has been subdued recently and questioned whether or not the StatsCan number would be low enough to spark some renewed strength in the market.

Flax acres were forecast at 1.725 million acres, which was up from the 1.560 million seeded the previous year but in line with trade expectations.

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