Prairies to grow more wheat, barley: CWB

The Canadian Wheat Board raised its 2011-12 outlook for wheat and barley on Friday, as a warm, dry summer looks to produce bigger harvests than a year ago.

Spring floods left an estimated six million acres unplanted across the Prairies, but a hot summer with timely rains has helped crops in Alberta and most of Saskatchewan. 

“We started with a (spring) deluge across the southern Prairies while northern areas were dry. Over the course of the summer, the situation improved,” said Wheat Board CEO Ian White at the CWB’s annual summer press conference in Winnipeg.

All-wheat production in Western Canada will rise to 21.3 million tonnes from 21 million tonnes a year ago, the board said, adding to one of the biggest global wheat crops on record.

The CWB’s estimate is one million tonnes, or 4.9 per cent higher than its mid-June estimate, but 300,000 tonnes smaller than Statistics Canada’s forecast on Wednesday.

The Wheat Board’s estimates are based on analysis and input from its field staff up until last week, but StatsCan’s forecast is based on a farmer survey.

Durum production rises to 3.9 million tonnes in Western Canada from three million tonnes last year, while the barley harvest looks to reach eight million tonnes versus seven million tonnes in 2010.

Both of those estimates are higher than the CWB’s June forecast and StatsCan’s most recent report.

The board’s higher estimates sound reasonable to private grain analyst Ron Frost, who offers consulting to farmers, based in Calgary. 

“The guys getting some of the early harvest done are impressed,” he said. “It certainly has been the common comment that cereals are doing the best.”

Minneapolis spring wheat came under pressure this week from StatsCan’s Wednesday forecast for a bigger Canadian all-wheat crop than expected, but MGEX wheat futures climbed sharply Friday, following corn and on concerns about a disappointing U.S. spring wheat harvest.

Canada is the world’s top exporter of spring wheat, durum and malting barley.

“No real shortage”

The International Grains Council on Thursday raised its forecast for 2011-12 global wheat production by three million tonnes to 677 million.

“There is no real shortage of wheat this year,” White said.

The late harvest in Western Canada, the country’s crop belt, still faces a significant risk, however, from autumn frost that could strike when plants are still immature. 

Wheat quality is currently superior to last year’s frost- and rain-damaged crop, but farmers need widespread freezing temperatures to hold off past Sept. 5, said Bruce Burnett, the CWB’s director of weather and market analysis. 

The board looks to export 18 million tonnes of grain in 2011-12. That would be up from 15.8 million tonnes last year, which was the lowest in six years due to smaller crops, but it still generated $5.8 billion in revenues. 

The board singled out Canadian Pacific Railway for failing to deliver grain cars as needed in the past crop marketing year, but said it was expecting better service this year.

The board’s monopoly on buying and selling Prairie wheat to export for human consumption will end in August 2012, the federal government has said. 

That change to a single-desk marketing system that has been in place since the Second World War may affect export sales to the CWB’s customers, but demand should still be strong, CEO White said.


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