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Record Canola Plantings Predicted

Canola and all wheat will closely contest Canada’s spr ing acreage battle as farmers look to cash in on the highest prices in more than 2.5 years, Agriculture Canada’s first planting forecast of 2011 shows.

Canola has consistently provided high returns to farmers, and Canada’s Agriculture Department sees them planting a record-large area after flooding took millions of acres out of production last year.

Agriculture Canada’s outlooks are based on analysis, not a farm survey, making them notable in the trade, but not as closely watched as Statistics Canada estimates.

Ag Canada forecast 18.5 million acres of canola, up 10 per cent from last year and in line with a prediction this month from grain handler Viterra Inc.

Attractive prices and expectations of high yields will drive the increase, Ag Canada said. Canola production could reach 12.9 million tonnes, based on normal weather and yields. All-wheat plantings will rise nearly nine per cent to about 23 million acres, due to high prices and low stocks of durum, the forecast said.

Ag Canada sees acres of oats climbing more than one-quarter to 3.7 million. While the increase in oat plantings sounds large, some say farmers will not boost acreage enough to avoid tight year-end supplies after a tiny crop last year.

All-wheat production could hit 24.9 million tonnes, while the oat harvest may reach 3.1 million tonnes, the department said. The high potential for flooding overhangs this year’s planting forecast. The Red and Assiniboine rivers in Manitoba are expected to spill their banks and a combination of saturated soil and average snowfall in Saskatchewan looks to leave many fields swampy for a second straight year.

Greg Marshall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said: “It all comes down to price and the most returns per acre are for seeding canola. I think that will be the best bet.”

Farmers do not have to plant canola as deeply as some other crops, making it easier to plant if conditions are wet, he said. Statistics Canada gives its first planting estimates on April 26.

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