OTTAWA, May 7 (Reuters) - Canadian farmers plan to seed less canola and more wheat in 2020, Statistics Canada said on Thursday, but noted the coronavirus crisis meant the agency’s survey data was collected under “exceptional circumstances” that resulted in a lower response from farmers.
The survey of about 11,500 farmers was conducted from March 2 to March 20. Statscan said it had to suspend some collection methods, like telephone interviews, as of March 16 because of the coronavirus, which affected the survey’s typically high response rate.
“Estimates for this release were produced under exceptional circumstances due to COVID-19,” the agency said in a note, adding that, given the lower response rate, “caution should be exercised when using these estimates.”
Subsequent surveys planned for this year, the agency said, will provide estimates of actual seeded acreage.
Canola plantings are likely to reach 20.6 million acres, down 1.6% from last year, the lowest seeded area since 2013, Statscan said. That figure is below the average trade guess of 21.1 million acres.
“It’s likely due to the weak price performance, and China is an issue in that,” Chuck Penner, an analyst with Leftfield Commodity Research, said when asked about the low canola acreage.
China blocked canola seed shipments from Canada’s top two exporters last year, citing pest concerns, but has allowed some shipments from other companies to continue.
All-wheat seeding intentions were pegged at 25.4 million acres, up 3.3% from last year, and just slightly above the average trade expectation of 25.3 million acres. Meanwhile, durum wheat acreages were up 6.8%, to 5.2 million acres.
Planting on the Canadian Prairies, where most of the country’s canola and wheat are grown, happens mostly in May and June.
Canada is one of the world’s largest wheat exporters and the biggest shipper of canola, a cousin of rapeseed used largely to produce vegetable oil.
In a separate release, Statscan said total wheat stocks were up 1.6%, to 17.8 million tonnes from last year’s 17.5 million. Canola stocks declined 12.3%, to 8.9 million tonnes from 10.2 million tonnes a year earlier. (Reporting by Kelsey Johnson; additional reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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