Lower canola acreage no surprise to farm groups

CNS Canada — A slight decline in canola acres in Statistics Canada’s forecast Thursday may have come as a surprise to industry analysts — but farm groups closer to the situation agreed the crop was due for a bit of a pullback.

StatsCan’s report indicated Canadian farmers intend on seeding 19.8 million acres of canola in 2014, a 0.7 per cent decrease from 2013. Meanwhile, pre-report trade guesses generally ranged from 20 to 22 million acres, with most analysts anticipating at least a million more canola acres on the year. [Related story]

Saskatchewan canola acres are forecast at 10.3 million — a 1.9 per cent decrease, the biggest decrease out of all the provinces. Alberta intentions increased 1.6 per cent to 6.2 million acres and Manitoba remained the same as the previous year, at 3.2 million acres.

“Well, I think that one of the biggest reasons is that farmers really farm with their pencils,” said Catherine Folkersen, executive director at the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission.

While canola prices are still doing reasonably well, a number of contributing factors may be causing producers to pull back from planting the crop, she said. One of those factors would be poor grain shipping programs in Canada this past year, which have resulted in a significant amount of canola being left in storage on farms and carried over until the spring.

Canola acres may be expected to be lower this year, but overall the crop has really been ramping up over the past six years, she said.

“Six years ago it used to be around six million acres of canola (in Saskatchewan),” said Folkersen. “So if we would have said 10 million acres six years ago everybody would have said ‘That’s crazy, nobody is going plant that much.'”

“Other options”

The expense of growing canola and some difficult spring weather patterns in previous years could be other contributing factors, she said.

Saskatchewan, Folkersen added, has many options in terms of crop choices, and with last year’s bumper crops and possible soil depletion, producers might be looking more at the pulse crops this year.

“Canola has been great from cash receipts,” she said. “But it’s an expensive crop to plant and if you haven’t sold last year’s crop because of transportation issues then you’re probably looking at other options.”

Bill Ross, executive manager of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association, said producers rotating their crops may be part of it.

“What we’ve been telling producers is that they need to stretch out the rotations and now in Manitoba we have a good rotation with soybeans that we can stretch ours out to a one-in-three or a one-in-four,” he said, “which is really good, it reduces disease pressure. But in the end it’s what makes producers the most money.”

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

 

 

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