Wet conditions hit size of Prairie wheat crop: CWB

Canada’s Prairie crop belt will produce less wheat and more barley this year, with excessive moisture in Manitoba and Saskatchewan limiting the projected harvest, the Canadian Wheat Board said on Tuesday in its first forecast of the year for the region.

Flooding will hit the world’s biggest spring wheat and durum exporter for the second straight year, shrinking spring wheat acres to their second-lowest level since 1971, the board said.

Farmers will be unable to plant six million to eight million acres of all crops, the board said, down from about 10 million a year ago but still relatively high.

Quality of crops may also be a problem. Bruce Burnett, the CWB’s director of weather and market analysis, said he has “serious concerns” about frost in autumn damaging immature crops.

Western Canada’s spring wheat production is especially crucial this year, with parts of the northern U.S. Plains flooded, the U.S. winter wheat crop shrivelled by drought and global stocks of top-quality milling wheat tight.

Farmers on the Canadian Prairies are expected to produce 20.3 million tonnes of all wheat, 3.8 million tonnes of durum and 7.7 million tonnes of barley, the CWB said here at its annual crop industry briefing in Winnipeg.

“Many farmers in the wettest areas have planted next to nothing this spring, while others are watching their newly emerged crops drown. This is occurring at a time when grain prices are extremely high, adding insult to injury,” said Burnett.

The CWB projected bigger seeded area for most of the crops it handles, as farmers struggle to recover from more disastrous flooding a year ago.

All-wheat acres will climb to 20.35 million from 19.97 million last year and include 15.92 million acres of spring wheat (16.21 million last year) and 4.01 million acres of durum (3.15 million in 2010).

Barley acres will rise to 6.66 million from 6.42 million. Maltsters and brewers are eager to see a bigger, better-quality barley crop in Western Canada this year to ease tight stocks of malting barley that are likely to raise beer prices next year.

The board’s planting numbers are lower than those Statistics Canada projected in late April, based on a farmer survey conducted before all snow had melted.

Statistics Canada will release its first crop production estimates for the country on June 23.

The CWB gave its last crop estimates — for Canada, not just Western Canada — in February, when it forecast a small increase in all-wheat production and a 10 per cent boost to the barley harvest.