Agriculture Canada sees biggest wheat area in 10 years

Canadian farmers will plant the biggest wheat area in 10 years in 2013 and slightly less canola, the federal Agriculture Department said in its first planting forecast of the year.

Attractive prices and a modest shift away from canola and other crops should entice farmers into planting more wheat, according to the forecast for the 2013-14 crop-marketing year from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Canola plantings are expected to be tapered back due to strong prices for other crops, high input costs for canola, and concerns about disease and insects. Yields of the yellow-flowering oilseed, used mainly for vegetable oil, were disappointing last year, mainly due to unfavourable weather.

Canada is the world’s biggest producer of canola, or rapeseed, and the world’s sixth-largest wheat grower. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada calculates its estimates using analysis, not a farmer survey.

The department’s estimate for all-wheat plantings is 25.3 million acres, up six per cent from last year. It forecasts production at 28.5 million tonnes. Despite a big harvest last year, robust wheat exports look to whittle down stocks by July 31, the end of the current 2012-13 marketing year, to 5.3 million tonnes, the lowest level in five years.

Agriculture Canada pegged canola-seeded acreage at 21.3 million acres, down about one per cent from last year.

Canola production could be higher, however, assuming that yields improve. The department estimated the harvest at 15.5 million tonnes, up sharply from 13.3 million tonnes last year.

A bigger canola harvest will be badly needed to replenish supplies next autumn, with Ag Canada forecasting record-low stocks of 350,000 tonnes by July 31 due to strong global demand.

The department’s forecasts for plantings of wheat and canola are bigger than the average industry estimates found in a Jan. 11 Reuters poll. The survey found traders and analysts expect plantings of 24.7 million wheat acres and 19.7 million acres of canola.

Ag Canada’s estimate for durum plantings is 4.8 million acres, up a tad from 4.7 million acres last year, while it expects farmers to seed barley on 7.8 million acres, up from 7.4 million.

Oat plantings look to be 2.6 million acres, down from 2.9 million acres in 2012, due to an expected drop in price.

The more closely watched Statistics Canada will issue its first planting estimates based on a farmer survey on April 24.

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