Lower input costs seen encouraging more canaryseed acres

CNS Canada — Canaryseed’s reduced dependence on pricey fertilizer — and reduced exposure to the transportation issues facing other crops — could lead to increased acres this spring on the Prairies.

Farmers may be more enticed to plant canaryseed this year when they look at the transportation problems affecting durum and wheat, said Kevin Hursh, executive director of the Canaryseed Development Commission of Saskatchewan.

“People view canaryseed as maybe something that’s easier to move,” he added.

Canaryseed’s low nitrogen requirements are also incentives to producers facing high costs for fertilizer, said Hursh.

Canaryseed can survive no matter when it’s planted, he said, but higher yields may be achieved when it goes into ground earlier, rather than later.

“There will be people that do plant it first, but there will be more people that plant it later, sometimes as a bit of an afterthought.”

If enough minor acreage growers show interest there could be a sharp rise in the number of acres planted this year, he said.

Mexico and the European Union remain the top customers for the crop, together accounting for over half of the world’s consumption. South America and Central America are also buyers.

Last year the commission filed an application with Health Canada to have canaryseed registered as a food. Hursh said he’s hopeful it will be endorsed as early as this year.

“Canaryseed has the advantage of being gluten-free, so we’re hoping that we’ll gradually make some inroads in the human food market and it won’t just be a birdseed anymore,” said Hursh.

As prices go, canaryseed isn’t going to generate a lot of excitement right now, he added.

According to Hursh, the current price for old crop in Western Canada is 19 to 20 cents a pound, with new crop going for 18 to 19 cents.

“I don’t think anybody is really excited about that new-crop price,” Hursh said.

Last season, just 165,000 acres canaryseed were planted, down from 300,000 acres in 2012-13.

Despite this downward trend, he said, the seed has advantages that can’t be ignored.

“If you take average yields in Saskatchewan and government-published expenses for growing various crops, $5.50-a-bushel durum was pretty much equal to 18-cents-a-pound canaryseed.”

— Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

 

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