Japan top buyer of Canadian wheat, barley last year

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified durum sales in millions of tonnes. It should have said Morocco imported 792,400 tonnes of Canadian durum, Algeria imported 764,800 tonnes and the United States imported 538,500.

Japan regained its title as the top buyer of Canadian wheat last year, importing substantially more than was common in the past decade.

It imported 1.554 million tonnes, up 50 percent from 2011-12, according to Canadian Grain Commission monthly statistics.

The grain commission figures don’t capture all export data so we have to wait for Statistics Canada for the final say, but the CGC’s numbers are a window on the leading importers.

Canadian wheat exports to Japan in the year just ended were exceeded only by the record year of 1987-88 when export competitor Australia had a poor crop.

Japan was often the top buyer of Canadian wheat until the mid-2000s, when the United States began to take the lead position in most years.

Total Canadian wheat exports in 2011-12 were 14.29 million tonnes, the CGC figures show, up seven percent over the previous year.

The U.S. was the second largest wheat buyer this past year, taking 1.35 million tonnes, up 41 percent. The move wasn’t a surprise, considering its small corn and wheat crops last year.

In third spot was Indonesia, always a major customer, buying 1.24 million tonnes, up more than 50 percent from the previous year.

Iraq, the No. 3 buyer in 2011-12, when it took 1.04 million tonnes, dropped sharply to take only 208,000 tonnes.

China became a significant buyer, taking 718,000 tonnes, about double the previous year’s 377,000 tonnes and the most since 2004-05.

It will be interesting to see how much of China’s import demand Canada is able to capture in the new crop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects China’s wheat import demand to jump to 9.5 million tonnes in 2013-14 from three million last year. Canada would ship about two million tonnes to China if it was able to retain a 25 percent market share, but so far the Asian country has been importing mostly soft wheat from other countries.

Morocco was the biggest buyer of durum this past year at 792,400 tonnes, the most since 2002-03. It was followed closely by Algeria at 764,800 tonnes, its largest purchase ever.

The U.S. was in third spot, taking 538,500 tonnes.

Barley exports climbed six percent to 1.25 million tonnes.

Japan was the biggest buyer, taking 506,100 tonnes, up 80 percent from the previous year, which made up for declines in purchases by China, Columbia and Mexico. However, China remained a major buyer, in third spot, at 237,100 tonnes.

The U.S. was in second place, taking 282,100 tonnes.

The tight supply of canola led to a 16 percent decline in exports, to 7.17 million tonnes.

China was the biggest buyer, taking a record 2.73 million tonnes, up 2.4 percent from the previous year.

Japan came in second, also importing a record amount at 2.36 million.

Mexico was in third place at 1.35 million and the U.S. was in fourth place with 320,3000 tonnes.

Other stories on these pages tell of changes coming to the way the CGC collects its weekly grain handling data and of possible changes to the way Statistics Canada forecasts the size of Canada’s crops.

These are important changes and must be done carefully. To be efficient markets must have accurate, impartial and timely information available to all participants.

If is murky or delayed or limited to a few, the potential for unfairness and manipulation grows.

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