Poor weather leads to poor quality crops

Soybean and lentil yields are up this year, but don’t expect that prices will follow suit

The quality of Canadian wheat may be down this year, but that doesn’t mean demand will drop.

Speaking at a recent Cereals North America conference in Winnipeg, CWB crop and weather specialist Bruce Burnett said this season’s crop got off on the wrong foot from day one, following a late thaw.

“The roots of our quality problem stretch back all the way into the spring,” he said. “Certainly in Western Canada we had a wide range of conditions, but… it’s important to realize we do have a lower-quality crop this year, caused by the weather conditions through this growing season.”

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Heavy rains just prior to harvest proved to be the final blow.

“If you look at our harvest conditions, most of the crop began to mature in the last week in August… then we had another unfortunate happenstance — something that didn’t happen the past two years — and that was some heavy rains across the southern growing areas,” he said.

About half of all Canada Western Red Spring wheat will fall into the top two grades he said, adding that protein levels will still meet the demands of most buyers.

The 2014-15 Canadian durum (CWAD) crop has the worst quality on record, Burnett said.

Only four per cent of the Canadian crop is grading as No. 1, with another 19 per cent at No. 2. The bulk of the crop is rated between No. 3 and No. 5, with 37 per cent No. 3, 25 per cent No. 4 and 14 per cent No. 5, Burnett said.

But, protein levels for the crop are looking better than last year.

The CWB specialist pointed out that Algeria just inked an agreement for a large shipment of mid-quality Canadian durum. Burnett predicted that some international buyers of high-quality durum will start to accept lower-quality products because they’re not willing to pay the large premiums. And, it’s already starting to happen.

Recently, it was announced that Algeria, that is normally a purchaser of No. 2-quality CWAD, bought some No. 3 CWAD, Burnett added.

Anyone who does have high-quality durum can also anticipate to be paid a premium, he said.

Demand for feed grain also remains high on the Prairies, said Burnett. While not expected to be small by any account, this year’s crop won’t be as large as the one in 2013. While most yields were good, nearly two million fewer acres were planted, in part due to weather conditions, Burnett added.

Still, there are a couple of exceptions.

“The only crops that are going to produce a little bit more this year are soybeans — because we’re changing our cropping patterns in parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba — and lentils, which were slightly higher in terms of productivity this year,” he said. “But with virtually all the other crops the yields just aren’t as big as they were last year.”

Others at the conference were less optimistic in their outlooks.

While there may be more soybeans out there, analyst Bill Tierney of AgResource said a large soybean crop in South America will likely drive prices down to $8.50 per bushel by next March.

Corn prices are also forecast to drop to levels seen in decades past.

Predicting that the next few years will be a “slog,” AgResource president Dan Basse said the next few years will see corn prices in the $2.75 to $4.75 range, unless something drastic changes the world market.

About the author

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Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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