Prairie Farmers Seen Planting More Flax In 2011

Canadian farmers will look to plant more flax this spring, but tight supplies in the meantime will slice exports to a five-or six-year low in the 2010- 11 crop year, crop analysts said Jan. 10.

Production fell to an 18-year low of 423,000 tonnes in 2010.

With current new-crop cash bids by grain handlers higher than average, farmers have lots of incentive to seed flax, whose profitability stacks up well even against grain and canola, said analyst Chuck Penner of LeftField Commodity Research in Winnipeg, in an interview prior to speaking at the annual Crop Production conference in Saskatoon.

“We’re at the high end (of prices) and it’s certainly attractive,” he said.

Farmers could plant 1.4 million acres – up about 50 per cent from last year – but that will depend on how much land is dry enough for planting, Penner said.

“Flax tends to get planted later anyway, so a delayed seeding season won’t necessarily cause problems, but if it’s simply flooded, that will have an effect.”

Farmers could plant 1.5 to 1.6 million acres of flax this year, said Agriculture Canada oilseeds analyst Chris Beckman. The big year-over- year jump simply reflects a return to normal area and strong prices, he said.

Testing requirements for flaxseed may cap full planting potential, Penner said. Flax buyers and industry groups put tests in place after the European Union found genetically modified materials in flax shipments in 2009.

Exports for the current 2010- 11 crop year will likely fall to a six-year low of about 500,000 tonnes, Penner said. Beckman of Agriculture Canada pegs exports at a five-year low of 600,000 tonnes.

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