To most grain producers in Alberta, this year is turning out to be worse than the drought of 2002. Inputs were on the high side to get the crop in, hay and straw are now in short supply, plus, there are still frost concerns to worry about. In some areas, temperatures below zero were reported in the second week of July.
The big difference so far between this year and 2002 is that even though yield expectations are below normal, prices available for the crops continue to decline.
A quick, unscientific survey we conducted mid-July of grain producers we deal with throughout the province resulted in some unsurprising guesstimates. Compared to a 10-year average on their individual farms, we asked farmers what they thought their yields might look like this year. Here is the average of the results we received:
Canola down 48 per cent Feed barley down 30 per cent Malt barley down 45 per cent CWRS down 43 per cent CPSR down 27 per cent Oats down 34 per cent Green peas down 45 per cent Yellow peas down 53 per cent
These numbers will definitely change once the crops are harvested, but a number of questions come to mind:
—Will yield numbers improve because of recent rains?
—Will yield numbers worsen if frost arrives early?
—Will corn continue to replace feed wheat and feed barley?
I thought it would be interesting to review what happened during 2002-03 with feed barley prices during the same time period as now. I’ll highlight some of the comments we made back then along with corresponding feed barley bids.
BARLEY PRICE COMMENTARY FROM 2002
June 7, 2002: “Feed grain bids have been slipping ever since the rally peaked at the end of May. Although producers remain reluctant to let supplies go while the drought is on, additional barley acres are being seeded on canola fields.” Lethbridge cash price: $157
June 28, 2002: “The search for feed grains continues… Many producers with grain in the bin won’t sell at any price. Rain is desperately needed. Conversations remain the same, focusing on livestock requirements and crop conditions.” Lethbridge cash price: $174
July 12, 2002: “Corn is starting to roll in… If you’re going to have straw or hay