Big harvest still in forecast, but rain an ongoing concern for farmers

Big harvest still in forecast, but rain an ongoing concern for farmers
Based on a survey of Canadian farmers conducted in July, Statistics Canada is projecting production of wheat, barley and lentils to increase in 2016, while canola, soybean, corn for grain and oats are anticipated to decline.

The wheat harvest, in particular, has the potential to be massive. Total wheat production is expected to reach 30.5 million tonnes in 2016, up 10.5 per cent compared with last year. This could mark the second time in 25 years that wheat production will exceed 30 million tonnes, the other being the bumper crop of 2013.

In Alberta, producers expect a 15.4 per cent increase in total wheat production to 9.6 million tonnes. But while harvested acres and yields are both up, wheat quality could be compromised due to excessive moisture — especially if the rain continues into harvest season.

“I’m sure guys are excited to harvest a larger crop, but it’s not without its challenges this year because of the weather,” said Kevin Auch, who farms near Carmangay and chairs the Alberta Wheat Commission. “Most areas have had more than adequate rain this year. Any of this moisture we’re getting now is really doing more harm than good.”

The rain is also having an effect on Canada’s lentil crop, which is expected to reach a record high in 2016 thanks to high prices that have spurred more farmers to plant the pulse crop.

In Alberta, lentil production is expected to increase 213 per cent to a record 432,700 tonnes. However, while harvested acres are up, yield forecasts per acre are slightly below the five-year average. Statistics Canada is projecting yields could be further compromised if the rain continues to fall.

“The largest impact on our quality and yield will be the excess moisture,” said Nevin Rosaasen, policy and program specialist with Alberta Pulse Growers. “Lentils do not like what we call ‘wet feet,’ or being waterlogged.”

Parts of southern Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan received more than three times the average level of rainfall since April, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, a government agency.

Alberta farmers have also weathered their fair share of hailstorms this summer, and in late July, the Agriculture Financial Services Corp. said crop insurance claims were on track to break the record set in 2012. The AFSC said Tuesday that trajectory has now changed, and claims appear likely to come in below 2012 levels — with 8,804 hail claims filed with the Crown corporation as of Aug. 22.

Canola production in Alberta is anticipated to decline one per cent from 2015 to 5.4 million tonnes as a result of a 4.6 per cent drop in harvested acreage. Farmers expect average yields to increase 3.8 per cent to 41.2 bushels per acre, up from 39.7 bushels per acre reported in 2015.

Ken Ball, a senior commodity futures adviser at PI Financial, said the canola crop will be too small to meet demand if China continues to accept shipments this year, and prices will probably rise “aggressively” if the trade issue is resolved. China is considering stricter standards on Canadian canola seed imports as of Sept. 1.

— With files from Bloomberg

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