Harvest woes rally canola, turn some farmers into winners

Winnipeg | Reuters –– As some Western Canada farmers watched rain and snow turn their ripening canola fields into bogs, Rob Stone could count his blessings.

Harvest weather was kinder to his farm at Davidson, Sask., about 100 km southeast of Saskatoon, and Stone finished harvesting canola by mid-September.

Then, when worries about four million tonnes of canola remaining unharvested over winter rallied prices, Stone sold one-quarter of his crop for up to $10.75 per bushel, well above his break-even point of around $9.

“It’s not like we’re having a big party, but it’s a good opportunity to take profit,” Stone said. “It’s unfortunate that some of it results from the news of people having difficulty with harvest. Lord knows, we’ve been there too.”

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ICE Futures Canada canola futures extended on Wednesday their longest winning streak since February 2012, rewarding farmers who managed to harvest crops on time.

The nine-day streak looked to end on Thursday, as futures dipped in late trading.

Canada is the biggest exporter and producer of canola, which is mainly processed as oil for salad dressings, margarine and other foods.

Saskatchewan and Alberta, the two biggest canola-growing provinces, have taken the brunt of bad weather.

Progress in Saskatchewan was minimal in the past week, leaving 22 per cent of canola unharvested by Monday, the government said on Thursday. That amounts to two million tonnes, based on Statistics Canada’s August crop estimates.

Alberta farmers may have one third of the canola harvest unharvested, or 1.8 million tonnes, said government crop specialist Harry Brook.

It may all be waste if it’s not harvested until spring, contaminated by rodent feces and other quality problems, Brook said.

Canada’s canola harvest, estimated by Statistics Canada in September to be one of the largest ever, normally wraps up by now.

Rival vegetable oils have also rallied, as reduced supply forecasts boosted Malaysian palm oil and concerns about South American production lifted soyoil, said Bill Nelson, a soybean and soy products analyst for Doane Advisory Services.

“And then when you get a specialty oil like canola starting to stumble a bit, that feeds into it,” he said.

On Tuesday, palm futures climbed to their highest level in two-and-a-half years, while Chicago soyoil notched its highest nearby price since mid-2014.

MATIF rapeseed futures, another name for canola traded in Europe, reached on Thursday its highest price in more than a year.

The forecast from Environment Canada, a government agency, looks mostly dry into next week for Saskatchewan and Alberta, with some scattered showers.

— Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent covering the agriculture and mining sectors from Winnipeg.

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