Smallest prairie wheat area since 1971

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“Farmers haven’t been able to plant more than 10-20 per cent in some areas because they haven’t seen it that way in their farming lifetimes.”

BRUCE BURNETT

CWB

Record rain in a wide band of Western Canada’s crop belt will leave the most unplanted acres in nearly 40 years, driving harvests down sharply from a year ago, the Canadian Wheat Board said June 11.

“This has been an unprecedented event,” said Bruce Burnett, CWB director of weather and market analysis. “Farmers can’t believe they haven’t been able to plant more than 10-20 per cent in some areas because they haven’t seen it that way in their farming lifetimes.”

Farmers will leave between 8.25 million and 12.5 million acres unplanted, which would leave up to one-fifth of Western Canada’s farmland unproductive.

That estimate includes three million acres designated to all-wheat and 1.6 million to 1.7 million acres of barley, Burnett said. The rest of the lost acres were designated to other crops that the board doesn’t market, like canola and oats.

The board didn’t give estimates for non-CWB crops, but Burnett said he doesn’t disagree with an industry estimate for five million acres designated for canola going unplanted.

Farmers will produce 18.9 million tonnes of all-wheat, down 22 per cent from a year ago; 3.16 million tonnes of durum, which is 41 per cent less; and 7.64 million tonnes of barley, down 14 per cent, the board said at an industry briefing in Winnipeg.

The board expects farmers to plant 19.15 million acres to wheat, the smallest Western Canadian all-wheat area since 1971. Plantings of barley (6.6 million acres) and durum (3.4 million) are estimated to be the smallest since 1965 and 1980 respectively.

The board’s projections are sadly realistic, analysts said.

“I’m more concerned about what the (weather) outlook is,” said Mike Jubinville, president of ProFarmer Canada. Last year, unusually favourable late-season weather saved crops that were stunted by drought. If weather and yields this year are normal, rather than excellent, crops could be even smaller, he said.

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