Canada farmers boost wheat but drop barley: Statscan

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Farmers in Canada, one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, plan to seed 16.2 percent more acres to wheat this spring, mainly at the expense of barley and oats, Statistics Canada said on Monday.

Farmers told Statscan they intend to plant 25.109 million acres of all types of wheat, up from 21.617 million acres last year, and above average trade estimates ahead of the report of 24.4 million acres.

The plantings will boost short world supplies of high-protein wheat, used to make bread flour, but are not likely to overwhelm the market, said Dave Reimann, senior analyst with Informa Economics Inc.

“The question is, are we going to have enough high-protein (wheat)? This number suggests that at least the buffer has got a chance to build,” Reimann said.

“I’m not sure that anyone will look at this and say, ‘We’re going to be swamped with high-protein wheat now,”’ he said.

Traders said farmers decided to plant more wheat this year because of historically high prices combined with cheaper costs than canola for fertilizer and other skyrocketing inputs.

New-crop Minneapolis wheat futures were down 4.4 percent at $9.27 per bushel early on Monday, due in part to the Statscan report.

Statscan said plantings of durum, used to make pasta, will jump 22.5 percent to 5.9 million acres, above average trade forecasts of 5.7 million acres.

Farmers also plan record seedings of canola and peas, Statscan said.

Slack demand from the depressed Canadian livestock sector pushed farmers away from barley, particularly in Alberta, where farmers said they would increase spring wheat plantings by a whopping 20 percent.

Statscan forecast barley area at 9.332 million acres, down 14.1 percent from last year, and below trade estimates that ranged from 9.8 million to 11.1 million acres.

Oats plantings will drop by 17.1 percent, Statscan said.

But barley production could still be larger than last year, when hot, dry weather sapped yields, said Bruce Burnett, head of weather and crop surveillance at the Canadian Wheat Board.

“It’s now up to the yield side of the equation,” he said.

A major spring snowstorm that began on Friday in Alberta and Saskatchewan could also change farmers’ final planting decisions, Burnett said.

The storm dropped as much as 30 millimeters (1.2 inches) of moisture on the southwestern Prairies, where farmers had been worried about dry soil ahead of planting, he said.

But it also dumped as much as 50 mm in the central and northern areas along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, which could delay planting, and push some acres out of wheat and into shorter-season barley, Burnett said.

Statscan surveyed 16,000 farmers by telephone between March 20 and 31. Planting recently began in the southern Prairies.

Farmers said they would leave less crop land idle in summerfallow, with projections down 11.2 percent at 6.85 million acres. “If (farmers) don’t know what it is they’re going to plant, but they know what the acreage is, then we put it in summerfallow,” said Statscan analyst Dave Burroughs.

Traders had expected total plantings would rise as record prices push farmers to plant as much land as possible, but that trend did not materialize in this report, Burroughs said.

Statscan will survey farmers next month to project actual plantings in a report slated for release on June 24.


* Statistics Canada report here 02.pdf

Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Louise Egan; editing by Matthew Lewis