Canadian farmers are looking at the 2011 growing season as an opportunity to take advantage of historically high prices, and as a result, acreage on many crops should see an increase from 2010, according to trade estimates ahead of the Statistics Canada planting intentions report due out Tuesday (April 26).
Ron Frost of Frost Consulting in Calgary said there is almost certainly going to be an increase in seeded acreage this spring.
“The incentive is there for acreages to be maximized to what’s available. When you combine the price incentive with the solid moisture conditions across the Canadian Prairies, there will likely be one of our lower summerfallow numbers,” Frost said. “That’s assuming the weather co-operates throughout the month of May.”
Jerry Klassen, manager of GAP Grains in Winnipeg, agreed there would be more acres planted this year, and said canola would see a sizeable increase from the 16.82 million acres seeded in 2010.
“Cool and wet conditions tend to be favourable to canola, and given the prices we have seen, it looks like canola will see a sharp increase and be the dominant crop,” Klassen said.
Frost agreed more canola acres would be in the offing, as he said the oilseed has shown all winter long that it very profitable in nearly all areas of the Prairies.
Traders’ estimates for canola for the spring of 2011 ranged from 17 to 19.3 million acres in Canada, which compared to 16.82 million in 2010.
Frost said there is likely to be more wheat seeded this spring as well.
“As the winter wore on, wheat kind of caught up to canola in terms of profitability, so it should see an increase in area this year as well,” he said.
It is expected there will be 23.29 to 24.8 million acres of wheat planted this spring, according to traders’ estimates. That compares to 21.06 million in 2010.
Although canola is expected to see a significant increase, Frost said the largest amplification — in terms of percentage — will come from oats and flax.
“The oats and flax are clearly the largest increase because of last year where — with the wet conditions — acres didn’t get planted,” Frost said. “Producers will be trying hard to work them into their rotations.”
Traders’ predictions for flax acres are to come in between one million and 1.4 million acres, while oats are to come in between 2.5 and 3.81 million acres, with most estimates on the high end of the range. That compares to 0.92 and 2.91 million acres of flax and oats planted respectively in 2010.
Frost said the wet spring also means a spike in barley acres is likely.
“Typically we would expect barley to see a shorter growing season than some of the wheat and canola varieties, which is why some producers will opt to plant more,” he said.
Barley estimates are pegged between 5.7 million and 8.5 million acres, with most predictions on the higher side. Last year 6.91 million acres were seeded to barley in Canada.
As far as pulse and specialty crops are concerned, the general consensus is that there will be a decline.
“Part of it is price-related. Prices of lentils, and red lentils in particular have dropped off quite a bit,” said Chuck Penner, president of Left Field Commodity Research in Winnipeg. “When it comes to peas, we will probably see a larger drop in green peas. There is usually a $2 to $3 premium for green peas over yellow peas, but that is not the case this year, so there is no big incentive for producers to plant them.”
Traders’ estimates are for lentil acres to be between 2.5 million and 2.71 million acres. That compares to 3.49 million in 2010.
Regardless of what the final numbers are from Statistics Canada, the data will be met with some scrutiny, given the wet and late spring across Western Canada.
“You’re always torn between what StatsCan says and what will happen,” Frost said. “I really believe we could be one or two per cent off of those (StatsCan) numbers given the wet conditions, but I don’t think that will be factored into this report, it won’t be until the June report.”
“What we’ve seen here is a certain amount of uncertainty, because it is still very early as compared to when we are going to seed,” added Klassen. “The data was taken in late March, and it doesn’t look like we will be seeding until the last half of May.”
Trade estimates in advance of Statistics Canada’s April 26 report, in millions of acres.