Good year for wheat and barley predicted, stability for other crops

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Representatives from Alberta grain, oilseed and special crop producer groups predicted a hopeful 2013 when asked to forecast how their industries would fare this year.

The general manager of the recently formed Alberta Wheat Commission said this year looks good for wheat, though there may be a shift in the varieties grown following the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly. Rick Istead said this year the commission will be building awareness in its stakeholders and striving to deliver value to its members so they’ll accept a checkoff to promote marketing- and variety-development initatives. He predicted continued strong prices for wheat and good demand, though said there may be a shift to more Canadian Prairie Spring wheats. “Growers will grow those varieties or those classes that will make them the most money,” Istead said. “I think we’re going to see some expansion of the smaller classes at the reduction of the hard red spring.” He said he thinks wheat will definitely be profitable. However, he cautioned farmers to pay close attention to the markets and their contracts.

Disease management was the No. 1 issue facing producers this year, said Jody Klassen, chair of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. He named clubroot and blackleg as main concerns. “I think obviously the markets would be the second… if it can stay where it is, canola’s going to continue to be a profitable crop,” Klassen said. He guessed that demand would remain strong and supply concerns an issue, resulting in another strong year for canola prices.

Klassen said he thinks canola acreage will remain similar to 2012 levels. “I don’t really see it growing or shrinking,” he said. Canola will remain profitable if there are good yields and prices, he said. “It’s probably better than most years,” he said for 2013.

Barley might expand

With good health claims and opportunities for exports in the feed and malt market, Matt Sawyer, chair of the Alberta Barley Commission, is predicting strong prices.

“It’s a great crop to grow agronomically,” he said. Some of the group’s main issues this year will be making research a priority and focusing on making sure the livestock producers they supply are happy. “My initial thoughts are there’s going to be more barley acres put in,” he said. “I would say the prices should be staying strong for a few years to come,” he said.

“Generally speaking I think you could say the market is bullish,” said Gerry Good, president of Alberta Pulse Producers. He said disease management, especially for peas, is a key challenge for the pulse industry. He said more plant breeding and research is needed, including research into developing markets for the fraction or processed components of peas.

Good predicted some small expansion for the pulse industry in general, but said there’s “tremendous” interest in faba beans right now.

Helmut Leili, executive director of the Potato Growers of Alberta, said the main issues this year are to hold their own in terms of acreage and volume of production. Overproduction of potatoes in other parts of Canada and the U.S. is a concern for Alberta growers, he said.

“We’re hoping for stability,” he said of the market and acres planted in Alberta. The group would also like to see more research dollars from the government.

Lynn Jacobson, chair of the Wild Rose Agricultural Producers, said for grain producers the main issues in 2013 are changes to the grain commissions and to insurance.

“I guess what we’re looking at is that prices don’t seem to be related to supply and demand anymore,” Jacobson said. “We’re cautiously optimistic in the grain and oilseed industry at this point in time,” adding it’s not possible to predict production and prices at the time of year.

Jacobson expects expansion in grain crops and stability in oilseed producers, though he noted there’s a likely shift in the varieties of wheat that will be produced this year.

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