Canadian farmers are planting more canola than Agriculture Canada is forecasting, say grain industry executives and observers.
The latest official government estimate released May 24 is for 20.4 million acres of the oilseed, based on the Statistics Canada March seeding intentions surveys.
Wes Anderson, manager of agronomy for Richardson International, Canada’s second largest grain company, thinks that number is far too low.
“I would say 21.5 million acres would be a pretty good guess at this point,” he said.
Those extra acres would result in an additional 860,000 tonnes of production using Agriculture Canada’s average yield estimate.
“Overall, I think we’re setting up for a big canola crop for sure,” said Anderson.
Based on his observations, the only thing that could change his 21.5 million acre estimate is a weather delay that pushes the end of seeding into June.
“Quite frankly, I think that will actually increase canola acres, if anything, as long as seed supply is there,” he said.
Growers can still achieve good yields when seeding canola in the first week of June, and the quality concerns are less of an issue than they are with competing crops such as wheat.
“A lot of producers would look at No. 2 canola and say, ‘I can still make lots of money on that as opposed to No. 3 wheat or feed wheat,’ ” said Anderson.
George Shelswell, director of oilseeds marketing with Bayer CropScience, said the size of the crop is still up in the air because large areas of northern Saskatchewan have yet to be seeded.
“If the weather is favourable, we could be closer to 21 (million acres), but there’s also a good chance we could be down at 20 million,” he said.
Bayer varieties are expected to account for 50 percent of the canola that goes in the ground this spring. Shelswell said there is enough seed in the marketplace to plant 21 million acres.
History shows farmers typically plant 100 to 105 percent of the canola that they tell Statistics Canada they will plant in the March seeding intentions report.
That would result in a crop of 21.4 million acres at the high end of the scale, but Shelswell thinks it will be closer to 21 million acres.
Grain industry analyst Larry Weber is predicting 21.1 million acres based on a survey of farmers who told him they plan to increase their plantings by an average of 9.9 percent over last year’s crop.
That would result in almost one million more tonnes of production than in 2011-12, but Weber is forecasting a modest 89,000 tonne increase in carryout because of a smaller overall supply of the crop.
Shelswell isn’t concerned about canola plantings exceeding Agriculture Canada’s estimate. Whatever growers harvest in the fall will not result in a burdensome supply.
“The demand will be there to consume that volume,” he said.