Corn good for Manitoba’s economy

Manitoba’s corn industry punches above its weight when contributing to the provincial and national economy, according to a study prepared for Informa Economics for the Manitoba Corn Growers Association (MCGA).

The consulting company estimates Manitoba corn production provided nearly $117 million in added value to the provincial economy in 2012 based on direct and indirect sales of $281 million and 852 jobs it creates, including 402 full-time equivalent, non-farm jobs, the report says.

Growing corn instead of canola added $16.06 million to the Manitoba economy from increased sales of $121.13 million and an additional 168 non-farm jobs. Canola was used in the comparison because it is widely grown and like corn has a relatively high cost of production.

The MCGA believed corn is important to Manitoba but wanted accurate, up-to-date figures to prove it, association and Carman-area farmer Myron Krahn said in an interview July 4.

“We want to make sure provincial (government) officials are aware of that when they go to make their decisions,” he said.

The MCGA expected the study would reveal corn’s strong monetary contribution to the economy but was pleasantly surprised by how many jobs are created, Krahn said.

The report also concludes Manitoba’s corn industry is stabilizing, while acreage and production continue to increase making the province less reliant on imported American corn.

“We’re finally getting to the point where we can supply our own local markets,” Krahn said.

Sixty-eight per cent of Manitoba’s corn is fed to livestock, 21 per cent goes to make ethanol at Husky’s plant in Minnedosa, five per cent is made into booze at Gimli and five per cent is exported to nearby provinces, the study says.

For years corn, a heat-loving crop that requires a long growing period, was an important but smaller-acreage crop in Manitoba. But last year it ranked sixth at 299,000 acres behind canola (3.57 million acres), wheat (2.99 million) soybeans (800,000), barley (540,000) and oats (300,000), based on figures from Statistics Canada.

Moreover, Manitoba farmers harvested a record 121 bushels of corn per acre producing a record 815,000 tonnes — almost double 2011’s production and the previous five-year average.

Corn is expanding in Manitoba thanks to the development of earlier-maturing varieties. And seed companies are committed to developing even earlier ones.

In June Monsanto announced it’s investing $100 million over 10 years to develop corn hybrids that can potentially be grown on 26 million acres across Western Canada.

“Taking into consideration crop rotations, this could result in an estimated annual western corn market of eight million to 10 million acres by 2025, up significantly from the current annual western Canadian corn acreage of around 300,000 to 500,000 acres — the large majority of which is confined to southern Manitoba,” Monsanto said in a release.

DuPont Pioneer announced a similar goal a year ago.

“If we get to a 70-day corn hybrid that opens up about 10 million acres (in the West),” Greg Stokke, DuPont Pioneer’s business director for Western Canada, commercial unit, said in an interview last year. “When you get down to that 68-day corn hybrid you open up about 20 million acres in Western Canada. In 10 years or less we’ll be at 68 day (1900 CHU).”

To put those goals into perspective western farmers seeded 20 million acres of wheat and 19 million acres of canola last year.

Corn has the potential to earn farmers good money, but it’s also a high-risk crop, Krahn said. Record yields and high prices last year have raised corn’s profile. But new growers need to be careful.

“Take baby steps,” Krahn advises. “Feel your way in.

“We’re certainly encouraging producers to try corn, but just be careful and level headed about it.”

Traditionally there has been corn wreck in Manitoba about once every 10 years. The last was 2004 when the provincial average crop insurance yield was just 1.3 bushels an acre. However, there have been some bumper crops since, including last year’s.

Like most Manitoba crops, corn started off slowly in 2013 because of the late, cool, wet spring. But the crop improved following warmer weather.

“It’s amazing what two or three weeks will do,” Krahn said.

“I would say it looks really good now. I would rate it good to excellent versus two weeks ago.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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