Malt barley seeding well ahead of normal

CNS Canada — Barley seeding is well underway across Western Canada and almost complete in southern Alberta, according to the head of the Barley Council of Canada.

“We’re two weeks ahead here in southern Alberta, there’s guys that have wrapped up; they’re done seeding already,” said council president Brian Otto.

On his own farm at Warner, Alta., southeast of Lethbridge, Otto said conditions are good enough that he plans to begin seeding sometime this week.

The situation is similar in many parts of Saskatchewan — a far cry from last year, when seeding was delayed due to wet weather.

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While Statistics Canada has pegged 2015 barley acreage as 6.5 million acres, Otto said he believes it could turn out to be slightly more, “maybe 6.4 (million) or 6.8, something like that,” if the weather stays favourable. Canadian farmers seeded 5.4 million acres in 2014.

“We got moisture to get things started, but we’ve had days of wind, so our ground is getting crusted, so we’ll need some rain here in the next couple of weeks for sure.”

Malt prices have stayed largely in the $5.50-$6 per bushel range over the past few years, according to Otto, and he expected that to remain the case.

He has already signed a contract with a major maltster for his acres, a practise that generally becoming the norm.

“For anybody growing malt barley, we like to have our contracts signed with maltsters with pricing in place. We’ve had contracts signed before we put a kernel in the ground,” said Otto.

He said he’s seen a bit of an uptick in new-crop contracts over the past week, which is a good sign.

Most of the crop going into Western Canada’s fields will be two-row varieties and should be good enough to qualify for malting purposes, Otto said, but even if it’s downgraded to feed, there should be buyers for that too.

“The feed market is holding up very well. I think the barley industry is looking healthy,” he said.

As for export sales, Otto said offshore markets for Canadian barley look to remain steady this year, both for feed and malt supplies, and “we would be on an average for barley exports right now.”

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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