Oat area poised to rise

MarketsFarm — Solid prices and growing demand — and risk aversion among growers — should see more oat acres seeded in Canada in 2020, with early signs pointing to the largest oat crop in more than a decade.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada predicted 2020 oat area at 3.93 million acres in its January report, which would be a nine per cent increase on the year and the biggest acreage base since 2008.

Statistics Canada’s first survey results for the upcoming growing season will be released April 24.

With uncertainty in many other commodities, including wheat, barley and canola, “guys are going to lean to those crops with lower inputs and are less risky to grow,” said Scott Shiels of Grain Millers Inc. at Yorkton, Sask.

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Solid new-crop pricing opportunities, in the $3.25-$3.50 per bushel area, would likely make oats a more profitable option compared to canola in the prime oat growing regions, Shiels said.

On top of the reduced inputs required for growing oats, the crop also needs a shorter growing season compared to many other grains. With poor harvest weather in 2019, many canola fields were left to overwinter and will be harvested this spring. As the spring harvest will push seeding back, Shiels expected any canola land will likely go into oats.

Demand for oats has also seen steady growth from new markets in recent years, with non-dairy oat milk and the gluten-free sector “two nice little markets that are really pushing the demand for oats,” according to Shiels.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin reports for MarketsFarm in Winnipeg.

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