Bigger canola crop predicted

Ag Canada’s forecast questioned | Northstar Agri Industries suggests 17 million acres possible

The president of a newly minted canola processing plant says Agriculture Canada’s 2012-13 yield estimate is too low.

“If we can get through the rest of the growing season with maybe one or two more rains, I think we’ve got a high yield potential in the ground right now,” said Neil Juhnke, president of Northstar Agri Industries in Hallock, Minnesota.

Agriculture Canada used an average yield of 33.4 bushels per acre in its June 14 supply and disposition report, which is lower than last year.

That doesn’t seem right to Juhnke, considering the crop went in the ground early this year and is off to a terrific start in most growing regions.

Saskatchewan Agriculture reports that three-quarters of the province’s canola crop was in good to excellent condition as of June 11 compared to one-third in those categories a year ago.

“From the sounds of things, the 2012 crop is off to an excellent start,” said Juhnke.

“The crop could be in the 37 or 38 bu. per acre area this year.”

That would result in an extra two million tonnes of Canadian production over the 15.1 million tonnes that Agriculture Canada is forecasting, providing breathing room in what would otherwise be another year of extremely tight supply.

Northstar’s new plant will compete for some of that production. The facility began processing old crop canola May 18 and reached its 1,000 tonne per day capacity by June 6.

The plant is capable of processing 345,000 tonnes of the oilseed annually. It will require 100,000 to 150,000 tonnes of canola from Canada in each of the first few years of operation until more farmers start growing the crop in Minnesota.

“Southern Manitoba, between us and Bunge’s plant in Altona, is our target market,” said Juhnke.

However, Northstar will also venture west into the Winkler and Carmen areas and as far north as Winnipeg.

The company has two agents contracting with Canadian farmers and is also buying canola from grain companies north of the border.

“We welcome Canadian farmers to come down and take a look and direct deliver,” he said.

It takes a truck seven minutes to go from inbound probe to outbound scale with the company’s high capacity receiving system.

Most of the plant’s canola will come from North Dakota.

Official acreage estimates have yet to be released, but Juhnke thinks 1.3 to 1.4 million acres of canola have been planted in that state. The crop is in excellent condition.

Land O’Lakes Purina Feed LLC is marketing 100 percent of the oil and meal produced at the plant. It is a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes Inc., a Minnesota dairy co-oper­ative that is the largest consumer of protein meal in North America.

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