MarketsFarm — Opinions are wide-ranging on what Canadian farmers plan to plant in 2020, ahead of Statistics Canada’s first round of acreage estimates, due out Thursday.
Prior to lockdown measures put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, StatsCan was scheduled to release its first principal field crops area report for 2020 on April 24. The agency postponed the report’s release to May 7, with the follow-up report still on course for June 29.
As one analyst put it, the pandemic and price fluctuations could generate shifts in the amounts of the various crops to be seeded this spring. Projections made in April might not hold up by the time StatsCan releases its crop area report.
“We could have a rally and farmers may decide to change their minds,” said Wayne Palmer of Exceed Grain in Winnipeg.
“Historically, farmers aren’t going to plant anything more than five per cent of what they planted the previous year.”
Palmer suggested wheat has been too much of a wildcard to forecast at this point. As for corn, low prices pushing to US$3 per bushel could push farmers away from seeding it in 2020, he added.
When it came to oilseeds, trade expectations for canola were from 20 million to 22 million acres. As for soybeans, market analysts believe those acres will run from 5.14 million to 5.68 million. StatsCan estimated there were 20.96 million acres of canola seeded in 2019 and 5.72 million to soybeans.
All wheat acres were pegged at 24.27 million to 26.7 million. Some analysts said any gains in wheat would most likely be in Eastern Canada, while acres in the West would remain steady or slip a little. Total wheat acres in 2019 were pegged at 25.02 million by StatsCan.
Forecasts for durum acres ranged from 5.27 million to 6.8 million. The federal agency estimated 4.89 million acres were planted in 2019.
Estimates for barley acres were from 5.93 million to 7.7 million. Statistics Canada said 7.4 million acres were planted last year.
In pulses, analysts called for 3.59 million to 4.5 million acres of lentils. Predictions for dry pea acres were 3.95 million to 4.38 million. Statistics Canada estimated 3.78 million acres of lentils and 4.33 million of dry peas were seeded in 2019.
MarketsFarm analysts Bruce Burnett and Mike Jubinville provided their take on the projections.
“The start to spring planting is relatively normal over most of the Prairies, with mostly dry conditions and normal to above normal temperatures. It is unlikely that major changes in expected area will result from spring weather conditions,” Burnett said.
“The biggest changes are increases in pulse and durum acreage, with modest declines in canola and spring wheat area,” he added. “These changes are due mostly to strong prices for durum and spring wheat.”
Jubinville said lentils and durum offer a more attractive new-crop pricing option relative to spring wheat. That could see a shift of spring wheat acres in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta areas to more durum than originally intended.
“Lentils acres will likely push up further north. Disease considerations likely limit acre gains in some southern areas, but limits will be pushed nonetheless,” he continued.
Jubinville said barley could increase because of Alberta’s spring price endorsement.
“It’s quite an attractive price insurance this year on feed barley, so it may hold up acres, though admittedly, [barley] may lose acres in Saskatchewan where such price insurance does not exist.”
— Glen Hallick reports for MarketsFarm from Winnipeg.
Table: Estimated acres for 2020-21 (millions)
* – Statistics Canada 2019-20 crop year estimates