More canola, less wheat expected ahead of StatsCan report

'Returns per acre are just so much stronger'

(Dave Bedard photo)

MarketsFarm — Canadian farmers are seen as likely to plant more canola and barley and less wheat this spring, as market participants await the first survey-based estimates from Statistics Canada on Tuesday to confirm the extent of that shift.

“Canola will gain acres and wheat will lose acres,” said MarketsFarm Pro analyst Mike Jubinville, pointing to strong canola prices as a driver of seeding decisions.

“Most growers are planning on pushing as many canola acres as they can, while still keeping with rotations,” Ken Ball of PI Financial added.

Jubinville noted 85 per cent of acreage intentions were likely already set due to rotational issues, with about 15 per cent of the land base up for adjustment every year.

While canola prices have shown even more strength since the survey was conducted in March, independent trader Jerry Klassen noted canola prices were already pencilling out better than other options at that time.

“The returns per acre are just so much stronger that farmers will go wall-to-wall with canola,” he said, adding that there was no reported shortage of seed this year.

Canadian farmers in 2020 planted 20.8 million acres of canola — and most pre-report estimates ahead of 2021 are calling for at least 22 million.

Canada’s largest canola crop acreage base ever was the 23 million acres seeded in 2017, but “that’s probably the upper limit as to what we can do from an agronomic standpoint,” Jubinville said.

The general consensus is also for an increase in barley acres in 2021, as strong demand from both exporters and domestic feeders has kept prices well supported.

Pulse acres are forecast to be relatively steady on the year, with the only real significant acreage reductions expected in wheat.

“The question is ‘How low will spring wheat be and how high will canola be?’,” Klassen said.

Given the 25.2 million acres of wheat seeded in 2020, average trade estimates call for at least a two million-acre decline on the year.

Table: Summary of pre-report expectations ahead of StatsCan’s April 27 field crops outlook, in millions of acres.

Crop Trade projections.   . 2020-21
Barley 7.700 – 8.500 7.561
Canola 21.500 – 23.200 20.783
Flax 0.900 – 1.200 0.931
Lentils 4.000 – 4.500 4.233
Oats 3.700 – 4.200 3.839
Peas 3.900 – 4.500 4.255
All wheat*.   . 21.000 – 24.600 25.190
Durum 5.000 – 6.000 5.689

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