Flax expected to be hard hit by deluge

Unseeded, drowned out acres | Yield estimates could drop depending on how long crops sit in water

Heavy rains are taking a toll on this year’s flax crop.

“The rain pattern has probably hit the flax area more than other crops for sure,” said Shane Stokke, vice-chair of the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission.

He believes seeded and harvested acreage will be far lower than Statistics Canada’s estimates.

“There was some cancellations on pedigreed seed that was ordered well before seeding, so obviously there is some acres that did not go in,” said Stokke.

He estimates growers were able to plant between 1.3 and 1.5 million acres, down from Statistics Canada’s 1.7 million acre forecast.

And the carnage doesn’t end there.

“There is a lot of drowned out areas, a lot of yellowing and a lot of acres of flax that is seeded is not going to be harvested,” said Stokke.

He predicts growers will harvest 1.2 million acres, 29 percent below Statistics Canada’s estimate of 1.68 million acres.

On top of that, he doesn’t see them achieving Agriculture Canada’s average yield estimate of 22.5 bushel per acre. Stokke thinks it will be slightly lower than that due to the moisture stress.

“(Flax) does not like to be sitting in water that’s for sure. It turns yellow and dies off,” he said.

Others are not as pessimistic about crop prospects.

“I don’t think we lost more than a couple hundred thousand acres,” said James Calloway, a grain broker with Johnston’s Grain Marketing.

Those acres were lost in southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba but there has been in-creased interest in the crop in southwestern Saskatchewan.

“That flax for the most part has gone in as intended,” he said.

“My concern is how is this crop actually going to turn out.”

Earl Schnellert, a grain buyer for Agri-Tel Grain, a processor located in Beausejour, Man., said new crop prices have been rising due to the seeding problems.

“We did some contracting earlier on at around that $10.50 (per bushel) mark and it’s probably more like $12 to $12.50 now,” he said.

That pales in comparison to old crop flax prices that are hovering around $15 per bu.

“The new crop numbers are still quite a bit lower. I don’t know if they’re going to end up being there once it’s all said and done. It may end up being $13 or $14 again. It’s hard to say,” said Schnellert.

The condition of the crop that is in the ground is a mixed bag.

“The rains are hit and miss so you’ve got some beautiful fields and you’ve got some fields that are partially drowned out,” he said.

“In general it looks not bad but we definitely are taking a bit of a hit on the yield because of the excess moisture.”

Schnellert thinks Stokke’s seeded and harvested area estimates sound about right, which would put further upward pressure on new crop prices depending on how things turn out in North Dakota.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said growers intended to plant 300,000 acres of flax in North Dakota, which would be twice as much as last year and back to 2012 levels.

Dan Mostad, grain marketing manager for Berthold Farmers Elevator, believes North Dakota farmers got away from corn and canola and into spring wheat and soybeans but stuck to their intended acres for flax.

“At this stage right now the flax crop looks good. I wouldn’t say it looks great or excellent, I would say it looks good,” he said. “It will probably have an average to above average yield.”