StatCan projects bigger than expected canola harvest in Manitoba in volatile market

OTTAWA — Despite a Chinese boycott, dropping prices and inconsistent weather, Manitoba farmers could end up harvesting more canola than expected, a new report says.

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This article was published 28/08/2019 (1188 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Despite a Chinese boycott, dropping prices and inconsistent weather, Manitoba farmers could end up harvesting more canola than expected, a new report says.

“My initial reaction is that we could see pressure on the prices this fall,” said Bill Campbell, head of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

“It’s kind of a stab in the dark.”

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS President of Keystone Agricultural Producers Bill Campbell: 'We could see pressure on the prices this fall'

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada published its projection for field-crop production, drawn from historic crop insurance data and satellite imagery captured in July.

The agency projects Manitoba will produce 3.4 million tonnes of canola, which is 5.6 per cent higher than an original projection that actually had production dropping.

That’s despite a projected 9.3 per cent drop nationally in canola harvesting compared with 2018, which experts attribute to less favourable conditions and fluctuating humidity in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“With production practices and farmers’ expertise, our yield potential is… to produce a better crop on even less acres,” Campbell said.

Chuck Fossay, the head of Manitoba Canola Growers, said canola still nets a better price than many crops, even with a drop in market rates.

He said farmers rotate crops in order to retain soil nutrients and prevent weeds from developing immunity to herbicides, so having so much canola growing is partially due to growing cycles.

“I kind of question the StatsCan estimate,” Fossay said from his Starbuck farm.

“With satellite imaging and using colour to create a yield estimate, it’s not always that accurate. A lot of things could change in the six (to) seven weeks since they did the estimate.”

He puts much more stock in surveys of what farmers actually load into their bins, a process that will start next month.

It’s unclear whether Manitoba farmers will end up taking in more canola — and if that would cause a glut to draw down prices. But Campbell and Fossay both say that’s unlikely.

TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Statstics Canada projects Manitoba will produce 3.4 million tonnes of canola this season.

Campbell said some producers are taking out extra storage to hold onto their canola in the hopes of prices rising over the next 12 months, though many will need to sell at whatever rate they can get in order to afford seeding next spring.

“Manitoba only produces about 15 per cent of all the canola grown in Western Canada, so I don’t think that (we) would be a producing a glut in the market,” he said.

Both said that despite Ottawa’s support for canola growers, lower prices and trade uncertainty is making their livelihoods volatile. In March, China blocked canola shipments from Canada, after taking in 40 per cent of that crop’s exports, likely over political concerns.

“There needs to have some kind of direction and confidence and resolution to this trade (issue),” Campbell said.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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